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Training Tip: The hazardous attitude of impulsivityTraining Tip: The hazardous attitude of impulsivity

Hazardous attitudes

A student pilot comes out to the airport wondering what aircraft he will fly today, having learned that the flight school’s most popular trainer was involved in a loss-of-control-on-landing accident the previous day.

The pilot flying the trainer wasn’t injured, but the aircraft needs repairs. The student sees the pilot talking about the accident with two of the school’s instructors and overhears him saying, "It was a classic case of get-down-itis. All I could think was, 'I have to get this plane on the ground.'"

The pilot was exhibiting the hazardous attitude of impulsivity. Unfortunately, that hazardous attitude is often associated with aircraft mishaps that follow a sequence of events that otherwise might have concluded safely. The pilot has dealt successfully with an in-flight emergency, but remains distracted and falls victim to an unrelated oversight or error. 

As numerous accident reports relate, occurrences such as losing control on landing in strong or gusty winds, or landing a complex aircraft without extending the landing gear, frequently follow the resolution of an unrelated problem. For example, a VFR-only pilot who had to make an emergency descent through clouds after becoming trapped "on top"—a scenario posed in the recent "Training Tip: No way but down"—may feel such a strong urge to land that checklist use is forgotten and flying an orderly traffic pattern with proper airspeed control is disregarded.

Don’t make the erroneous assumption that only new pilots may give in to haste and error under trying circumstances. When the pilot of a twin-engine turboprop Beechcraft King Air with parachutists aboard lost an engine during the climb after takeoff, the pilot secured the failed engine, released the jumpers as planned, and returned for landing. But then the preoccupied pilot "let the situation get the best of me," and landed the aircraft gear-up.

Impulsivity is one of the five hazardous attitudes described in Chapter 17 of the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge: “Impulsivity: 'Do it quickly.' This is the attitude of people who frequently feel the need to do something, anything, immediately," the chapter explains. "They do not stop to think about what they are about to do; they do not select the best alternative, and they do the first thing that comes to mind."

A better idea, as your instructor has told you since Day 1, is to fly the airplane first at all times—a method guaranteed to restore order to your thinking.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Pilots, Flight School, Aviation Industry

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