A Pilot's Perspective.

By Barry Meek.

November 2006

I know Now what I Didn't Know Then

We’ve all said it before. “If I only knew then what I know now”. Some people would never have bought a Cessna, or a Piper, or a Taylorcraft, or started building an experimental airplane. Some would never have owned a Fiat, or a Yugo. Others would have never married. Or had children.

But life is all about learning, making mistakes, getting wiser, living. Anyone who has never made a mistake, never made anything. The best teacher after all is said and done, is experience. Now I know why my boss was always preaching to check the fuel caps. That’s another story. I’ve learned a thing or two about aviation, and for the most part it’s been from experience. Fortunately, I’m still here to talk about it.

Every day I hear student pilots on the radio broadcasting their positions and intentions, and I think to myself how boring it must be to be flying around going nowhere. But in fact, this is the time in those student’s lives where they will learn the basics of flying, where they won’t be allowed to bury their mistakes and hide them from instructors.  Later in their careers, the material they’re learning today will begin to fit together and make sense as it’s applied to the real world of aviation. They will learn the shortcuts, the items that are important and how to avoid mistakes.  Who ever it was that said a pilots license is a “license to learn” was right.

There’s more to being a pilot than flying an airplane, just as there’s more to parenting than having children. Think back to your own early flying days.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have known then the things you know now? Hindsight. Experience. Wisdom. Call it whatever you like, but we all eventually gain from it.  I’ve made bad decisions, said things I wish I hadn’t, I’ve seen airplanes damaged, seen people die, sometimes friends. I’ve guessed at the remaining fuel on board, about the weather and the length of a runway. And I’ve even left a fuel cap off.  

I would venture to say that everyone has a part of their past they’re not proud of. The important thing is to believe in yourself and make the most of those mistakes. Analyze and process them.  Learn from them.   Many times I’ve thought that wisdom comes with age. It stands to reason that the older we get, the more time we’ve had to make more mistakes. Naturally we get a whole lot wiser.

I’ve never built an airplane. Never owned a Fiat. Never flown a jet. Some things were obviously not a good idea. For me. Somehow I just knew that. For some people it requires a first hand experience.

There comes a time in life when you’re comfortable with what you know, what you’ve done, and most important, with who you are. All that could come much sooner but it’s only now that I know what I didn’t know then.

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