From the Archives: Your Goal or Mine?

I’m sharing some articles that I wrote for previous newsletters. I hope you like them.

Your Goal or Mine?

In a previous lifetime, back in the early ’90s, I was training for my Commercial Pilot’s License.  When I was just beginning the training and getting ready for my first solo, I had to test with an instructor that was not my normal instructor.  I can’t remember my instructor’s name, but the gentleman that I tested with was Mr. Hoskins.  He was an awesome guy, about my dad’s age or a bit older.

Most of the test went just fine.  Initial takeoff, flight maneuvers (turns, stalls, basic navigation), and general knowledge. Everything was fine, right up until we began landings.

Landing, as you might expect, is an essential skill for any pilot to have.  It doesn’t matter how amazing you are in the air if you can’t put the machine back safely on the ground.  A pilot who is only mediocre in the air but who can land like a feather will be remembered as incredible by his thankful passengers.  Likewise, a pilot who flies brilliantly but who lands in a “controlled crash” (as my Great Uncle Harold, who was a cropduster, described an airline experience) will not be remembered quite so fondly.

As I remember, there was a fairly vigorous cross wind during this test.  I mention this, not as way of an excuse, but merely to set the stage.  An airplane is in the air much like a boat is in the water.  If you can imagine sitting in a little boat trying to cross a river, to go directly across the river, you would have to point the boat upstream a bit to travel in a straight line across.  Flying is much the same.  To travel in a straight line over the ground, you have to account for the wind.

So, on this day, the wind was blowing from the northeast and I was landing heading north.  That meant that I had to turn the airplane a bit to the right (east) to travel in a straight line over the ground.  This is all very routine and familiar to any pilot.  As you near the ground, the airplane’s attitude (position in the air relative to the ground) is changed so that it does not over stress the landing gear (called a “slip”).  Usually the up wind main landing gear (right in this case) will touch first, and then the downwind gear, and finally the nose gear.

I knew this procedure well and was very used to it.  Obviously Mr. Hoskins knew it well too.

As I descended and lined up with the runway, I adjusted and readjusted for the wind while going through all of the motions of a normal landing.  Gave my position on the radio, changed flap position, watched for other traffic, etc.  As I set up the slip, I began drifting to the left of the runway centerline.  This didn’t concern me too much because the runways at Lawrenceville were 150 feet across (if I remember correctly).  The wingspan on the Tiger that I was flying was only 22 feet, so I felt like I had plenty of room.

Mr. Hoskins felt otherwise.  This otherwise calm and jovial man nearly came unglued.  I was really busy and not in the mood to listen very hard to instruction, and he was freaking out and yelling about something or other.  I heard him say “Go around!” so I aborted the landing, added full power, began resetting the airplane to fly again.

As we “talked” on our way back through the landing pattern above the airport, I discovered that he was less than thrilled with my allowing the airplane to drift off the centerline of the runway. Where I was very happy to just land on the runway itself, he was a bit more particular about the placement of the craft.

Well, the rest of the story is not really important.  I was rattled and did not perform well on subsequent attempts.  I practiced with my instructor for another week or so and aced the test the next week.

I’ve always remembered this though because it illustrates an important lesson.  My goal was just to get the plane on the ground in one piece and at the right place.  My examiner’s goal for me was a lot more explicit and I didn’t understand this at first.  So, now, in any relationship that I have, I try to be very clear on what the goals are for that relationship.  If it is a student, I always ask “Why are you here?  What do you want to learn from Martial Art?”  When I’m talking to family member, I always want to know what they want from a given exchange, how they feel about it, and I let them know what I expect and how I want things to go.

That’s another reason that I would like for everyone to keep a blog on the site.  Read my blog entries so that you know what I’m working on and thinking about.  Write your own so that I know where you are and what’s going on with you.  We don’t always have time to talk about these things during class, so this is a good way to take advantage of technology to communicate on our own schedules.

Take Home Lesson:

  1. Make certain that your own goals are well defined.
  2. Make certain that you know what other people’s goals for you are.
  3. Figure out how to bring them in line with each other before a crisis ensues.






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