Thursday, March 28, 2013

Letter to the Editor: Flight Training Magazine

In response to a few articles in a recent issue of Flight Training, I wrote the following letter to the editor.  I did receive a warm response from Ian Twombly, but only the first two paragraphs were printed in the most recent edition.  I wanted to post the entire letter here.

Dear Editor;

Despite fulfilling my dream of earning my pilot certificate nearly a  year ago, I continue to enjoy reading *Flight Training* as a source of continued learning and development.  In this issue, two things came up that really caught my attention.

First, I was very pleased to see an article that talked about how clinical psychology can have a positive impact on the aviation industry in general and pilot training in particular.  My only quibble was to note that if a person has a true phobia of stalls, he or she will evidence panic attacks when exposed to this feared situation.  This is far beyond what we typically think of as fear and apprehension, but instead can be paralyzing.  However, the general principles of graduated exposure (or finding ways to expose the student to stalls in a fashion that moves from least to "most" threatening) and combating irrational fears with real information *and *experience is a way that any flight instructor could help that person who has a general fear.  But please leave the treatment of the true phobias to the licensed mental health professionals.  This boundary was implied in the article, but not clear. But thank you for showing that plenty of psychology is involved in pilot
training.  This segues nicely into my next point.

I was also very happy to see the articles about women in aviation, and I think it highlighted a number of learning differences that are probably relevant to both men and women.  The stereotype put forward in the article is that women need to know why things work and not just how to do things, but many men are the same way.  It was not until I understood *why* a stall and its subsequent recovery worked that I was less fearful of doing them.  In fact, I suspect that I would have driven many instructors crazy with all the questions with which I peppered my instructor.  He also took my fear of stalls seriously, and what is in violation of the injunction to "man  up" did many of the things suggested in the article referenced above.

In a very male-dominated community where "manning up" is the expectation lest one lose status by admitting a weakness, I suspect many women *and* men are dissuaded from asking questions or expressing fears that are blocking their progress.  My hope is that we might look at how our group culture might negatively impact our interests in growing the female and male pilot population.  I bet that is why GIFT [note: a training center that is geared toward the needs of women specifically referenced by the author] is so successful.

I appreciate these women who are paving the way for people like my daughter, a young lady who is not at all afraid of stalls.  When I took her on her first flight, she simply could not contain her excitement and exclamations of "cool" and "this is awesome."   As we taxied back to the
ramp after our flight, she asked something that was music to my ears:

"Daddy, can I learn to fly an airplane?"

Yes, honey.  Yes you can.


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