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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Monday Motivation: Focus = Success

Question of the day...

"How do airlines look at checkride failures? Is it a number thing, or is it a quantitative thing and they ask you why, you explain, etc...The reason I ask is because this next checkride I am taking is for my commercial, multi, and instrument. I'm in a 141 school when I took the stage checks for the commercial and instrument part of the course, but I didn't get my certificates. It is all one course, 95 lessons from beginning to end, I am on 92 now, the final stage check is lesson 95. 

So, while a part 141 school student will technically never fail a checkride, we may fail a stage check.  I've heard the pass rate is 60%, so not too high, mostly for dumb mistakes. Plus on the oral they can ask anything from instrument, commercial and multi...which makes me wonder why I studied it for previous stage checks if I have to relearn it all again. So this is kind of a high stress high stakes stage check...

My question is, how would failing this particular stage check look bad since it is for all the marbles, so to speak?"

My answer begins with a couple questions of my own...

Why do professional Basketball players stand on the free throw line and miss their foul shot? I'm mean seriously, my daughter could make that shot when she was ten.

Why do pro golfers go from golfing a 60 to an 80, while on tour, withing two days?

The real question is why do professional pilots, athletes, or students fail when they have the technical skills for success?

The answer: FOCUS.  Or rather... lack of.

If you have been trained, have the technical skills, and proven you can perform a given function... then the only reason you will fail is by allowing your mind to drift to someplace other than the task at hand.

If your mind to wanders to "what if" I don't succeed, the FAA is watching me, thousands of fans are in the stands, if I sink this I'll be rich, if I miss this shot I'll lose my chance for the title, if I screw up ... the airlines won't want me and I'll have worked my entire life for nothing and kill all my dreams! If you allow yourself to think about anything other than the task at hand... your performance will degrade. How much? Depends on what kind of a monkey mind you have and how far you let it wander. Single-minded focus is the key to success.

So... back to the question, "What if I fail my checkride?" Will the answer to that question help you perform any better? Will your performance be any better if I told you that it didn't matter? What if I said, "if you fail you won't get to be a pilot." Worry and fear waste valuable brain cells that you need for your checkride.

Prepare yourself for whatever you're doing. Focus on your flight. Focus on your studies. Focus on your test. Focus on that free throw. Focus on that putt. Do NOT allow your mind to wander down the path of "what if." If you do... you will not be your best and you will have a much higher probability of failure.

Questioning "what if" you don't succeed is a really rough runway to travel down. It will destroy your chance for success. Those rocks are going to fly up and take out your prop.

Do not worry about what "might" happen. Concentrate on what "is" happening. You'll have a great ride!

Enjoy the Journey!

~ Karlene


  1. Excellent advice for any big endeavor, Karlene! Focusing on what IS happening and working with that, perfect. Thanks.

  2. I think so too, Karlene san.If I think about negative things even 1%,not only me but also my surrounding people would start to worry and not good idea.Always I want to think positive thinking without worries .Also To think without worries,I learned many stuff for sure:)

    thanks for reminding these ideas,Karlene san.
    have a wonderful day:)

  3. Something else to consider: For the MOST part, any outfit that trains you has a vested interest in you passing the training. It's a poor reflection on the company and instructor if their pass rate is low, and will likely result in a decreased student flow.

    The examiner wants nothing more than to see a) if you conform to standard procedures and established regulations, and b) if he would send his wife and children up to fly with you. With VERY few exceptions, examiners are realists and not sadists. They know their applicants are tense, they know you may make little mistakes; the objective is to see how you handle them. If you fall apart and let the rest of the ride slide will likely earn a re-test. If you identify the mistake on your own and state "correcting"...most examiners see that as a fact of life and a sign of professionalism.

    The best pilots can flunk any checkride on any given day if the examiner chooses so. There is no such thing as an omnipotent-perfect checkride. With the exception of very few "old and bold" captains and very few super-senior FOs who tell you they do, you will never know everything and it will not be assumed that you do.

    My goal as a Check Airman in a previous life was to have every checkride be a learning experience. You were supposed to walk away from my checkrides confident, somewhat humbled, and equipped with one additional piece of information or skill to complete your eternally incomplete puzzle of Aviation Knowledge.

  4. Thank you Linda. And for all your help today. You are a GREAT inspiration. And a positive force!!!

  5. Jun, you are a wise man. Keep those worries away and you'll do much better! Sometimes we all need a little reminder.

  6. El... Thank you for an excellent comment. I think it helps eliminate the worry if you know that "most" check airman are realists and they have one goal in mind... to make sure you are safe, not to fail you.

    Mistakes will happen, nobody is perfect... I've yet to see the "perfect" checkride... and you can still be safe without that perfection. It's a learning process.

    I too have always used the "would my family fly on their plane" as my guide. Pilots should have that same expectation of themselves.

    And yes... Anyone can fail a checkride. Just don't think about failing it. Think about what you're doing.

    Thanks again for your words of wisdom!

  7. Good to hear that from a former check airman. For the most part, most of the guys here doing the stage checks are in their low to mid 20s, so not too much older than myself, and many remember doing the rides themselves. For the most part they are fair, however there are a few that are on a power trip and expect near-prefection...but I guess that is probably true anywhere you go. I still have 2 weeks or so until the ride, so hopefully that is enough time to prepare.

  8. Dan, Hang in there...and don't worry. I recently experienced someone on a power trip, too. I view them as a bad dog. Don't show them weakness, and don't back down. Go in with confidence and you'll do great. But the confidence is the key. You have confidence when you are prepared. You are going to do great!

  9. Nice Post. My trouble stems from the writer's buried comment to the effect, 'why did I bother studying this material for those earlier checks..."? Well, Duh? maybe because it is material that you NEED TO KNOW! I'm not sure I would want to fly with a pilot who apparently takes a minamilist approach to his learning and demonstrating mastery. -Craig

  10. Yes, that comment didn't pass me by either. But he is young and in the "school" mode. Despite the aviation aspect of the college our education system focuses on passing segments and moving on with life. He will learn in aviation that it will all be relevant and necessary. Until he gets to the airlines, and 80% of what he learned he might not use again. But then will learn new planes, systems, and operating procedures.
    Thanks for the comment Craig.

  11. Excellent point Karlene! No matter what the profession, it's all about focus. Well said!

  12. Thank you Heather! Yes... Even in writing.

  13. Interesting. I'm in a 141 school, but it doesn't work like that. Private, instrument, commercial, CFI, CFII, multi, and MEI are all separate. No wonder this person is so nervous. Cramming three or four checkrides into one would kill the average person.

  14. Christine... I'm thinking there is a way to study for all three. Maybe that will be tomorrow's blog! Thanks!

  15. To clarify the comment regarding studying the material for previous checkrides;
    It is not that I don't want to know the material or feel that I don't need to know it, it is the fact that I have new material to know and learn, and with limited time with flying, a job and school I want to spend that time effectively learning the new material. It is frustrating to me because this is technically my multi ride, so it should be focused on sysytems, Vmc, etc. It is overwhelming because on top of knowing all the new concepts, I am expected to be at the same level I was at 6-12 months ago for orals for previous checkrides. My frustration lies in the fact that I studied very hard and knew the material and passed the checkrides, yet unlike part 61 schools I have to redemonsrate that level of knowledge; a double jeopoardy, so to speak. I know the important things from instrument and commercial, its the fact that I could unsat my multi, commercial and instrument tickets because I forgot something trivial such as the thickness of a localizer beam.
    Hope that clarifies
    (and yes I am in school mode- the last thing I want to do during the week before finals week is to review all my instrument/commercial knowledge, then go on a 3 month flying hiatus and not use any of the information I just reviewed- at 141 schools we get tested and retested like no other (ie 3 private pilot checkrides, 2 instrument, commercial, 2 multi, 2 cfi, 2 cfii, 2 crj on top of FAA writtens, numerous block exams, quizzes, etc), so to Craig I can assure you I will be reviewing this material in CFI, CFII and so forth- it never ends) After doing my private at a part 61 and then coming here, I can assure you we are tested and expected to uphold standards far higher than any part 61 (not meant to demeam part 61), so it gets quite repetitious and at times a bit frustrating)anyway, sorry for the essay

  16. Dan... That is okay about the essay. One thing I know: Okay, I know more than one thing. Maybe two.

    Your enthusiasm, work ethic, effort, and all you put into your studies will carry to your career. You have passion. You have focus. You will succeed!

    Now we just need to get the worry out of your head. Worry is the "only" roadblock I can see you facing in your career. Don't worry!!!


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