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Feature Article: What You Know, Gets In The Way of What You Don't Know

The learning law of 'Primacy' is what makes developing proper habits first build the foundation for what you will do when under stress. As children we cried under stress. As youngsters we screamed and cavorted. As adults we curse and swear and perhaps strike out. I have seen all of these acts in my flying students when under stressful circumstances. Learning to fly is very much a process of replacing these prior habit reactions with new ad hoc (for this) habit patterns related to flying a particular manufacture of aircraft. Manufacturers use very similar cockpit and operational procedures for all their models.
When what you have already learned about one make of aircraft becomes inappropriate in a different make you are faced with 'negative habit transfer'. You are five times more likely to make a mistake in operation and procedure when what you are supposed to do is 'different' than what you did previously. The likelihood of the mistake occurring is multiplied by several factors if compounded by the introduction of stress. In a situation that requires immediate action we all tend to revert to the habits we first learned. In flying the region of 'negative habit transfer' is most apparent during the inadvertent stall and inadvertent unusual attitudes.

When it comes time for the pilot to transition out of the 'trainer' into the heavier, high-performance or complex aircraft at least some of the operational procedures will change. Power operations will vary, landing flare requirements will vary and timing of everything will change. 'Negative habit transfer' becomes a problem that can only be overcome by practice. There is no substitute for practice. However, it must be directed practice of the right kind. The pilot must devise and revise checklists into a form that will all the development of consistent habit patterns. Included in the actual flying must be considerable time spent in cockpit simulation of what to do, where it is, when to do it, what comes next, and when. Recognize, that you will never be entirely free from your first learned habits. Past habits will arise again and again out of the dust and rust of your past to corrupt your new habits being formed and then neglected from non-use. The ghosts of your flying past can and will rise to haunt your present. What's worse is you won't even realize it.


Last Modified December 9, ©2019 TAGE.COM

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