Friday, 27 January 2012

Practice may not make you Perfect but you sure get better at it

I was once invited to play a game of Golf, in fact my first, when I think about also my last. So we are ready to tee off, I remember listening to every word of my partners, heart pounding, watching, waiting, thinking this could be embarrassing. Wisdom said I should go last, I took note of their every movement, imagining melding into their posture, raised eyebrow, twitch of the forfinger, then it was my turn. Feet apart, balanced, poised, tense like a coiled spring, so with eye on the ball, I untwisted and the swing... the swing, surely it would have been the envy of any professional. The ball was hit to perfection,  it could only be described as a beautiful shot, probably still talked about  in Golf Clubs throughout  the British Isles... well may of been, had it been repeated it sadly never was, not even near. Politely it was best described as a fluke, from then on I did not have a clue, though previous time spent crazy putting at Beau Sejour came into its own when eventually any ball condescended to join me on the green.  Despite the obvious excellent start, it was a game that just did not catch my imagination and I have  never played or been invited again. 

As a pilot one thing I am quite good at is landings, in fact I have done about 10, 000, according to my log books into several hundred airstrips.  As it happens I have a similar number of take-offs, some would say based on 'alleged' bounces I have substantially more of the former than the latter! However the only  reasons I am good at landing is practice, also is there is a standard of landing and I practice to achieve that standard, anything less really is a poor show. The most demanding landings are to be had on water, certainly less forgiving if you get them wrong  but on land or river it is fun, challenging and at times quite exciting. 

This week I have been in Johanesburg in South Africa doing an Instrument flying course on the Cessna 208 Caravan. I have an Instrument rating already but  I do not use it for the type of bush flying I have been doing this last 20 years - as of July 2012. It is almost a year since I have practiced instrument flying seriously, as a result I would describe myself as a qualified Instrument pilot but not a proficient one and there is a difference. I have got out of practice and when out of practice you can think yourself competant until like a club rower who finds he has to go against Steve Redgrave you suddenly realise you are well and truly out of your depth. 
One way of practicing instrument flying and emergencies, is using a simulator, I am sitting happily in this machine in the picture above. The beauty of it is you can repeat an exercise, almost instantly with a tap of a computer key. Whilst I hated it for the first few days, as it had a mind of it's own and it did not feel at all like the real thing.  By day three when unexpectedly we simulated flying into a flock of birds, the engine stopped with a mighty bang and the glass on my windscreen fractured and the engine went quiet it seemed pretty real as I glided for an emergency landing. I was getting the hang of it, things practiced before kicked in and I landed the 'aircraft' safely.
So now as I look back over the first week it was interesting seeing how practice had made such a difference, next week flying is in the real aircraft - we will skip flying into a flock of birds! I can say I have loved the training, as things I should have known but had perhaps forgotten have been repeated, checked and repeated, the standard is being raised and experience is starting to come back into play. This course will cost MAF thousands of pounds, yet it is an essential part of training if I am to work in an Instrument programme where there is a shortage of pilots. Plus as pilots we are required to practice, that is a fact. The course is hard, long hrs, fun, challenging and exciting. 
My wife and I are doing a Kingdom Theology course with New Wine Training Partnership and it is brilliant. I am learning new ideas, challenging old ones, finding the Old testament is a remarkable book as is the New in more ways than I had thought, finding things I should have known before, remembering great truths. Plus there is a real practical side to this Theology  - is there any point in Theology that has no practical application? The work/study is hard, long hrs, fun, challenging and yet exciting.
I love going to the gym and kayaking, funny really that we put all our effort and at times funds into training, practicing, and becoming good at our work, our hobby, our sport perhaps all three even when it is hard, involves long hrs, yet we do it because we love the fun, challenge and excitement.
You know it is the same with being a disciple of Jesus to be any good at it* involves practice. You need to practice prayer, you need to practice reading the Bible, you need to practice loving people, you need to practice being generous, you need to practice being a servant, being a disciple, being different and wholehearted. It is hard, long hrs, fun, challenging and exciting. It's a mans calling...**
Christopher Bergland wrote recently in The Athlete's way: Sweat and the Biology of Bliss pub in Oct 2011 that essentially  'practice, practice, practice anything that you want to become world-class at.' 

Jim Le Huray our intrepid Bush Pilot joined me in the simulator. Check out Jim's films on youtube bigglesgsy

* Wholehearted - think about Caleb in Joshua 14:10-11
* *  Ladies, girls boys it is also a calling for you 


  1. Yet another Great blog from my friend the Bush pilot. Clear Sky and Soft Landings to both of you. (Bryan and Jim)