Fly an aircraft long enough that you get lazy, let your standards slip and do something stupid.
Highly skilled jobs need razor-sharp concentration but sometimes people lose focus.
Look at some sportsmen who got to the top of their game and then messed up, think Tiger Woods or Lance Armstrong.
It wasn’t their technical skill that let them down, it was their standards.
I’m currently writing a book about decision-making and analysing how I have made decisions over the last 20 years of flying military fast jets.
Some decisions have been intuitive, ‘do or die’ ones and others have been long, drawn out rational thought processes. In flying training, decision-making is not something you are ever formally taught and tends to be wrapped up in the catch-all of ‘airmanship’.
‘Airmanship covers a broad range of desirable behaviours and abilities in an aviator. It is not simply a measure of skill or technique, but also a measure of a pilot’s awareness of the aircraft, the environment in which it operates, and of his own capabilities.’
I tend to fly less than I used to as now my primary role is office based. I make sure that contractors give the RAF the aircraft they’ve promised to deliver, on time and to the required specifications. What this means, however, is that when I do fly, I tend to see a ‘snapshot’ of flying that was previously not available to me when I was doing it full-time.
And this interests me a lot.