U.S. Department
of Transportation

Federal Aviation

St. Louis
Flight Standards District Office

10801 Pear Tree Lane
Suite 200
St. Ann, Missouri 63074


September 1999 




Thought for the month...
Most people are not used to an environment where excellence is expected

MAKE EXCELLENCE A HABIT....In the United States the Eagle has always represented what we consider to be the best qualities of our country. It's our national bird, and there are many examples of how eagles are identified with excellence. Eagle Scouts and Anheuser Busch are two that come readily to mind. Each year people come from around the nation to watch the eagles arrive in the Alton area. What they see are individual birds, not flocks. Eagles aren't found in clusters, and that's how we think of them, ahead of and higher than other birds.

I was listening to a psychologist discussing the problems some sports fans have when they put their faith in an athlete or team, and that person or group fails to succeed. It occurred to me that there are a lot of jobs where success must be the norm. It must be repeated again and again because failure is not really an option. Aviation is certainly one of those jobs. I don't think I would feel real comfortable settling into the seat of an airliner and being cheerfully told by the flight attendant: "Welcome aboard. Please fasten your seat belt and try to relax. You'll be happy to know that the Captain successfully completes this particular flight more than half the time." The environment that we operate in requires that we begin with success, and repeat it. As the old joke goes: "If at first you don't succeed - don't take up sky diving."

Excellence in aviation is a learned trait. If it is to be widespread, we must be exposed to it regularly, and demonstrate it continuously. That's not always easy to do because doing the right thing is often contrary to our motivation for doing what we're doing to begin with. Checklists are an excellent example. Most of us have come to realize that using a checklist is a good way of getting required tasks completed without missing anything. But, checklists take time. They also infer that we don't know how to complete the task without one. I heard one pilot say that he didn't use a checklist when he was carrying passengers because he didn't want them to worry. The obvious implication was that a competent pilot is able to do everything from memory. Whether the passengers actually looked at it that way, or it was just a convenient excuse, we may only speculate.

Before you go selling it short, and dismiss this as simple newsletter filler, we all might want to examine our own reasons for being in aviation. Not surprising, one of the features that draws people into it is the requirement for excellence. Much the same as the medical field, one of the things that attracts people to aviation is that it requires discipline and precision to do it right. It also happens to be a lot of fun but when we think back to the flights that were the most fun, they usually turn out to be the ones that we planned and executed well. Eventually, flying becomes routine, even monotonous. When I hear pilots begin to grumble that the fun has gone out of flying, my response is - turn up the excellence. Work for a new rating, treat yourself to a few days in a simulator, or give that as a present to your flying spouse. So what if it isn't in the aircraft you normally fly, you'll learn a lot, you will have been challenged, and your battery will be recharged.

One of the most pleasing comments I have received came from an individual who quit flying several years ago, before he ever got his Private Pilot Certificate. He came to an Aviation Education Seminar with a friend, more out of curiosity than anything else, and after the program he approached me to ask what he would have to do to get back into the cockpit. He was charged-up by the people he met. He found the seminar material to be challenging, and the questions that the group asked were smart and thoughtful. He said that it was clear to him that these people were striving toward excellence, and he wanted to be part of it.

Most of us can appreciate how the pressures of money and time can put a crimp in our plans. Just because we can't afford to take that flight we've always wanted to make to Alaska, doesn't mean that flying is no longer going to be fun. Make a habit of excellence. Practice those landings until you can hit the spot every time, regardless of the cross wind. Put the GPS away and plan and execute a flight solely by ded reckoning. Become an absolute expert on whatever type of aircraft you operate. You know the kind of individual I'm talking about. They know every variation of the type they fly, and they can tell you about every nut and rivet. They're not crazy. Look in their eyes. They're having fun. Turn up the excellence. Make it a habit, and watch the effect it will have because most people are not used to an environment where excellence is expected. Fly like an eagle.

Upcoming Events:

Sep. 25
Highland Airport, Highland, IL.
St. Louis Soaring Association,
Open House, Fly-in and Safety Day.

Sep. 30
Florissant Valley College,
Multi-Purpose Room.
7-9:30 PM.
AOPA Air Safety Foundation,
Operations at Towered Airports.

Oct. 4
Keith's Café,
Memphis, MO.
Operations at Towered Airports.
7 to 9pm.

Oct. 16
Spirit of St. Louis Airport,
Helicopter Safety Seminar.
8:30am to 12:30pm.

Oct. 19
Lindbergh High School.
Night Operations, Disorientation and Vertigo.
7 to 9pm.

Oct. 21
Pizza Inn,
West Plains, MO.
Operations at Towered Airports.
7 to 9pm.

Nov. 11
Cape Girardeau Airport,
Cape Pilots Club Building.
Operations at Towered Airports.
7 to 9pm.


Safety Program Manager
1-800-322-8876 x 4835

May Day