Jim Trusty 2011

            I flew with a doctor/pilot recently and did not feel he was in total control of the airplane at any time.  According to him, it is normal for humans to forget a particular skill stored in their memory bank if they go too long without using that skill.  So there! If he seemed to be a little behind the power curve when he took his Flight Review and Instrument Proficiency Check, it was simply because he had logged less than 10 hours in the past twelve months.  This was his excuse.

            He arrived at this conclusion after talking to a friend of his who has made an exhaustive study of the human mind, so much so that he now makes a living as a Psychiatrist.  I talked with that friend at length about this theory and now believe that he is not all wrong.  He thinks that, at the most, if the subject matter is interesting or necessary then we as human beings retain about 10% of what we see, hear, feel, smell, and read.  He also thinks that the information stored will take priority over anything incoming even if it is vaguely familiar.  It seems the brain is a little bit lazy and doesn’t want to do any more work than necessary. 

             Now I want you to pay close attention to what he is saying because this may turn out to be a valid medical excuse for bad flying.  He thinks that as new information is introduced, it forces out something else that is not being used or not as noteworthy.  The memory is not selective about what it takes in but it must be readily usable to stay in the bank.  And that 10% we retain that he speaks of is for very smart people.  He thinks that some people are walking around with less than 1% of their brains being engaged.  I told him that I was behind one of those people at the present time on the Interstate doing 70 MPH. 

             I talked with my FAA Safety Team leader about this and he said it is the same thing that they have been teaching and preaching for years: misuse or lack of a continual training regimen will lead to bad habits in the cockpit.  That sounds like the same thing to me, especially if you say it real fast.  

             I really like to learn new things and this intrigued me to no end.  I concluded that if you know in advance that you only have so much space for storage in your brain, and you are also keenly aware that flying can be really dangerous if you are not seriously concentrating on the job at hand, that the reason for not being able to perform at a standard equal to the certificate you are sitting on is that you as the Pilot in Command are not giving aviation enough priority.

             I had my doubts about this pilot’s mental IQ when he called to tell me he was flying in to get his Flight Review with me because he had heard that I was hard on the pilot and followed the rules.  I thought then that he must be just a little off to go out of the way, fly into my area, and train with me.  Plus, I really charge for my time!  Now I think he is just trying to find a new excuse for not being at the level he should be.  He has given me something to think about and it was very interesting to talk with his friend, the shrink.  He also is going to come down and spend the day doing some work on a newly installed set of Garmins in his Baron 58.  I told him that I expected something new from him in the way of excuses, and he said he was giving it some deep thought.

             What are your thoughts on this mental lapse theory?  Ever happen to you?  Have you been on what should be considered a routine flight and the passenger asked, “Where are we, exactly?” and you could not give a quick and true answer?  Are you flying enough to stay current?  Are you reluctant to fly with passengers because you don’t feel comfortable as the PIC?  How did you feel when you flew your last Flight Review?  Do you have a Flight Instructor that you fly with on a regular basis?  Is money or health keeping you on the ground?  Have you considered quitting?

             Am I hitting on some of the reasons you have selected to drive more and fly less?  These are the most common things that take us out of aviation and it is only going to get tougher. 

             The FAA Medical has never been a cake walk and it is getting even tougher to pass.  This is something we have a lot of control over but still let sneak up on us regularly.  Blaming the doctor is not going to work in this case.  They have a set of FAA Rules and Regulations to follow and can’t be expected to give up their livelihood and standing in the medical community just to help you keep your certificate.  The time to prepare for your next physical is the same day you just completed your last one. 

             Aircraft insurance rates continue to rise and more restrictions are added each year.  If for some reason you don’t have enough to cover a mistake or lied when you filled out the application, you get sued.  The cost of keeping the aircraft airworthy as the fleet gets some age on it will continue to rise and that annual comes around pretty fast.  Add to all this the monthly maintenance, hangar or tie-down fees, BIG sunglasses, BIG watch, leather jacket, and a visit or two to some air show.  After you add all this up, what is your cost per flight hour?

             In closing, you don’t need to make up a new excuse or use an old tired one.  You need money to stay in aviation and you need to fly on a regular basis in order to stay current.  That’s it. 

             If I can be of any service to you, suggestions, ideas, training, safety seminars, recommendations, I am always here.  Thanks!  

Written permission from the author required to reprint this copyrighted article. (2011)


JAMES E. (Jim) TRUSTY,  ATP/CFI/IGI,  was named the FAA/Aviation Industry National Flight Instructor of the Year for 1997, and the first ever FAA Southern Region Aviation Safety Counselor of the Year for 1995 and then again in 2005.  He still works full-time as a Corporate 135 Pilot/ “Gold Seal” Flight & Ground Instructor/ FAA Aviation Safety Team Representative/ National Aviation Magazine Writer.  You have been enjoying his work since 1973 in publications worldwide.  If you have comments, questions, complaints, or compliments, please e-mail them directly to him, and he will certainly respond.  Thank You.  (


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