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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.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Why Aritistry And Flying

T.H.ursdays with Tom Hill

A couple weeks ago I introduced the idea flying can be artistic: Artistry in Flying. The comments on that article were fantastic. One included a reference to Jonathan Livingston Seagull, a great little story/philosophy book. One of the tenants of that story is working towards perfection. In the story's case, it meant seeking perfection through performing the act of flying at a higher and higher level. The book introduces the possibility this pursuit of perfection leads to a whole new level of being through flying. The concept of artistry and flying are directly related to this. 

Why am I talking about this? Because I want to make it as clear as possible that flying includes so much more than a simple act. The activity of flying is so much more involved than simply making houses bigger when you push the stick forward or making them smaller when you pull the stick back. There is opportunity with this activity to encounter new and different levels of ability, of capability. To the luckiest of us, there is a vision, a clarity, that only becomes apparent when we reach the highest skill level of aviation.

This might be hard to follow. Let me put this in a different way that is easier to understand and in a broader context. Regardless of the activity, I think we can all agree that people who operate at a higher skill level have an understanding that's well beyond those who operate at lower skill levels. That understanding leads to clarity that couldn't exist at the lower level. 
I'll explain through photography since I know a few things about that art form. It is one thing to be able to point the camera in a direction and fire off a couple of images. Compare the point and shooter to the artist who encounters a location, seeks a vision that works, then solves the technical problems to bring that vision to life. The result is a work of art compared to something less. The artist photographer is able to see things and realize a result the other person simply couldn't because the artist photographer is operating at a higher level. This clarity, this opportunity to see things, is available in aviation if you consider its artistic nature. 

Why is this clarity important? First, striving for perfection is always an admirable trait. Seeking to do things better, constantly pushing oneself to be better on the next approach than the previous one. Putting that demand on yourself to always be better and not take things for granted is the only way to ensure you're not getting worse without knowing it.

The second reason why this is important is that without that clarity we cannot see solutions to complex nuanced problems. This concept works for any set of challenges, whether it's the new way to do a rejoin with other aircraft, shooting an approach, entering into a pattern, avoiding terrain, dealing with weather, tackling any number of emergencies. All of this is important when attempting to solve the major hurdle to improved aviation safety: eliminating pilot related mistakes.

I won't get into details on problems or solutions here. I will assert that if you aren't operating at a high level in flying already, if you aren't constantly solving difficult flying challenges, and you aren't considering the artistic nature of flying, you will not be able to properly identify the problems or find effective solutions. You will not have that clarity. On top of that, even if you are operating at a high level and can see solutions clear as day, you may not be able to explain it to those that don't operate at your level. Such is the problem when working with people that do not have your vision.

Let's try to remember how we got here. A couple weeks ago I introduced the idea of artistry and flying. Next, we talked about the pursuit of perfection with flying and how when you are at that level you can have a clarity that didn't exist before. I used the analogy of the point and shooter photographer compared to the artist photographer and how they're different and how solutions are envisioned. 
I showed how the artist photographer was able to have a vision for the scene, solve the technical challenges and create art. Next, I asserted that without that clarity that comes from operating at that high level you will never see the challenges for what they are, or their proper solutions. Lastly, I surmised that even if you have that clarity and could see the problems and the appropriate solutions, it may be difficult to explain all that to someone who doesn't have your vision.

I'm going somewhere with all this discussion. My goal is to introduce some concepts that are "out of the box" compared to the usual way we consider flying. I want to do this because I know if we always think of flying the same way, we will never resolve problems that constantly vex us no matter how much energy we put into it. By seeking a higher level of flying we will have the opportunity solve challenges in ways we never thought possible. We will be able to transform flying into something we never considered before."

More on this subject. A lot more.



  1. Oh... My... God.

    This is really what I wanted to say on my post (here on Karlene's blog) when I defended the thesis we all must go to University.

    Tom, if you were in a super bowl kind of arena giving a speech, suppose it was crowded, please do know I would stand up, shout "Bravo!" and clap my hands.

    One thing I would like to share: you don't need to be a perfectionist to reach perfection. You must not, alias. Because that's the art of perfection. It is not to be perfect all the time.

    When I defended my point of view on going to University, and tried to pass a similar message, I wanted also to express the fact University doesn't bring perfection alone. A degree contributes to it. You gain a great balance of knowledge on experiences and in University. Knowledge is power. Education is power. So you can become a wise pilot. Then YOU seek for perfection by yourself.

    We must never stop learning. Pilots must be hungry for wisdom. Did you say this is part of perfection? I think we know the word says for itself.

    Most times it's a choice. You choose if you want to be the artist.

    Karlene, when you shared your wisdom on knowledge, that struck me and I will never forget. You are a superstar!

    And Tom, thank you so much for expressing this in a such wisely manner.



    1. Alex, I love your comments. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom. I know how much you love Tom's writings... as so many do. But taking the time to comment is awesome. And you always make me smile.

      I too would stand up and shout Bravo as I clapped.

  2. Tom, The only way to get better at something and continually improve is to think outside of the box. To dissect it from the usual, and look at it from different angles. Try something new and different. You have so much to teach us, and I am honored to be a student following you. Thank you for another beautiful post.


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