Quality Landings Five Ways to Improve Them

While I consider myself a competent pilot, committed to improving my skills and flying well and safely, I do not hold myself out to be an aviation maven, have never been a flight instructor, and am in awe of those who are. So why this particular title? Bear with me.

I am sure many of you have heard the old chestnut – an experienced pilot is asked, “How do you know if you have made a really great landing?” And the response? “When I do I will let you know.” So, my premise is this: Keep flying, keep the ratio of takeoffs to landings at unity, and in the process, get better with the inevitable practice. In order to do that, you need to hang around on this mortal coil and while I may not be the guy to tell you how to keep the dirty side down – AOPA has many wiser souls than me to do that – I am the guy to talk about staying above the daisies instead of pushing them up!

So here are five techniques that I put into practice daily.

  1. Can you imagine taking advice on how to fly your plane from someone who was not a pilot? To have complex avionics serviced by a plumber? Or, for that matter, to have a backed-up toilet system serviced by an avionics specialist? If you buy this premise, why do people so willingly take advice on how to look after that most delicate piece of aviation equipment, the pilot, from people who have zero expertise? The clues below will further flesh out how to keep yourself fleshed out, but please, avoid self-proclaimed health gurus who have no scientific background, no training, lots to gain financially, and nothing to lose reputationally.

    If doctors give bad advice or treatment, they find themselves penalized by the medical authorities and sued into oblivion. Purveyors of quackery have no such constraints, and, in fact, it is my observation that very often the true benefit gained is inversely proportional to the cost. I am not saying that “alternative” therapies are never valid; I am saying that you should do your research to ensure you are not following a fruitless course, especially when a factually proven one may exist. You plan flights? Put the same thought into planning regimes for better health or therapies for disease when you need them and gather as much data as possible.

  2. I think one would have to be from a galaxy far, far away to not understand that Jabba the Hutt has landed and taken over America. For those of you missing the Star Wars links, Jabba is, shall we say, rather rotund. It is now politically incorrect to draw attention to so many issues, but we cannot shy away from this one; obesity kills with far more abandon than Darth Vader’s light saber. And with this epidemic has come another – a veritable army of Stormtroopers all brandishing their particular diet book. The best thing one can do with diet books is buy a lot of them...and then carry them around in bags to lose weight and build muscle. I have written a lot about ways to address obesity and will continue to do so as long as I have breath in my body and battery life in my computer.

  3. Along with the diet book army is the fad diet brigade. These. Things. Do. Not. Work. And in fact, may be dangerous in some circumstances. Eat a well-balanced diet, cut down on red meat, avoid sugar – it ain’t sweet to your body. Try a couple of vegetarian meals each week. Eat less! There you go, that’s my book. Pretty skinny book, don’t you think?

  4. There is a good premise – only exercise on the days you eat. Buying expensive machines only exercises your wallet in the long term and going to the gym is not the only answer. Simple life changes can have profound benefits – standing desks and even desks with a small treadmill are all the rage. I tend to do my conference calls outside the office; in a one-hour call I can easily pace for 4 miles or so. Walk places instead of driving, take the stairs, not the elevator. I often hear “I don’t have time to go to the gym.” So don’t – do these kinds of things instead!

  5. Sleep is a critical component of a good and healthy regime, yet bad sleep habits are rampant. There is another epidemic of people with sleep issues and it seems to be growing. Yes, sleep apnea is a huge problem for everyone, pilots especially, and the bed partners of those who snore! But many issues are not about apnea, they are about sleep habits – having discipline about the time one goes to bed, avoiding screen time beforehand (computer, iPhone, TV), having a dark room at a pleasant temperature, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, and ensuring the bedroom is light free, has calming colors, and is peaceful. I have enjoyed an inexpensive sleep computer that provides me with data on my sleep habits and this has helped me make certain changes that have resulted in a better night’s sleep.

Being a pilot requires us to be diligent, committed, and focused on our skills and equipment. Taking these steps will help you enjoy your time in the air for longer and help improve those landings.

Jonathan Sackier

Dr. Jonathan Sackier is an expert in aviation medical concerns and helps members with their needs through AOPA Pilot Protection Services.

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