Your connection with the sky

Don't Fly Like Darth Vader

Don't Fly Like Darth Vader

"Never his mind on where he was, what he was doing." That was Yoda's complaint about Darth Vader, and the same can be said about a class of student pilots that I like to call over-analyzers.

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I've seen it happen at all levels, from the private pilot-to-be all the way up to the new-hire airline trainee. The student knocks it out of the park in ground school, but things go sour once they get to the flying. 

The over-analyzer usually does quite well when conditions are perfect. They fly the textbook traffic pattern, make a textbook steep turn and generally fly by the book. But when things are beyond the bounds of what they've studied, they will often freeze up, and it's all because their head is not in the game -- it's back in the classroom!

I think it has a lot to do with the overwhelming level of information available on flying any given maneuver. The textbooks break the maneuver into multiple steps, then discuss common mistakes, how to correct those mistakes, and then go on to list practical test tolerances. All of this is good information, but in the course of flying the maneuver, it's just not all that relevant.

For the student, I suggest focusing on the big picture. Don't get too wrapped up in all the common mistakes and maneuver standards in the textbook. Instead, focus on how to fly the maneuver and visualize what it's supposed to look like. If it isn't perfect, just fly the plane to where it's supposed to be and carry on.

Your flying isn’t always going to be pretty, mine certainly isn’t. But as long as you keep your mind on flying the airplane, you'll be on your way to being a great pilot.

10 Responses to “Don't Fly Like Darth Vader”

  1. Actually, Yoda said that of Luke Skywalker as he was sitting in his hut on Dagobah while talking to Obi-wan Kenobi about training him.

  2. Now, if we could only get a reboot of the prequels with someone other than Mr. Lucas directing. Ahhhh... to dream.

  3. I remember not being able to properly utilize the EFIS displays and the amount of information they give you.

    I flew P-3s in the Navy. A wonderful airplane for what it did but full of severely out dated technology (especially in the flight deck).

    Transitioning to a modern cockpit was a shock but once I got a hang of the displays I was off to the races.

  4. I see a bit of myself here as a student pilot. Since finances limit the amount of time I can spend in the air, I have more time to pour over everything on the web concerning the maneuvers I'm working on, or will be working on. When I do get in the air, there are times I end up messing up the maneuvers because of major amounts of overthinking. "Just fly the airplane" is sometimes easier said than done...but it sure is more fun.

  5. Allan Durham Says:
    September 8th, 2011 at 7:34 am

    I am somewhat different in my PPL flight training,

    I feel totally at one with the airplane when flying.
    But really struggling to take in and absorb all the text book stuff associated with the training requirements.

    I am using the Gleim course for my study work.

  6. Don't fly like Luke Skywalker either. Remember when he flew to the Dagobah system and landed on Yoda's swamp planet in IFR conditions without an instrument approach or any preparation at all? What was he thinking????

    Also, X-wing fighters can hover. Why the heck was he going so fast in his approach when he couldn't see?

  7. Blinded by love , young Luke was...

  8. And what about that Han Solo? Can't he be bothered to do an adequate pre-flight before zooming off into space?

  9. The process of learning to fly is the same as learning to walk or ride a bicycle. It is your hands and feet that must learn what to do, not your mind. All a book can do is tell you why the plane responds the way it does and why a maneuver is correct. But all the "why"s in the world won't change the most insignificant "what". First learn to fly, then you can use a book to satisfy your curiosity. Consider this: reading and flying are mutually exclusive skills.

  10. Actually Jack, Yoda was speaking in reference to Anakin Skywalker as he likened Luke Skywalker to his father in dialog with the disembodied Obi Wan.

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