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Mil Pilot - Nature or Nurture?

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Mil Pilot - Nature or Nurture?

Old 17th Apr 2017, 20:01
  #41 (permalink)  

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I think a lot has to do with finding your niche, and age. I never made FJ, thank goodness. I would have killed myself in the first five minutes in a Lightning.
However, I think I made quite a good helicopter pilot, and a damn good airline captain. LHS of an airliner (or perhaps military transport?) was my natural place.
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Old 17th Apr 2017, 20:21
  #42 (permalink)  
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I guess I was "Nature" as an ATCO, and bloody good at the job ... but they never let me be an Instructor. Apparently I was 'too tactical'. ]
Now we come to those who are good instructors.

I was always poor in the first few hours of which ever qualification I was given, but at some stage something "clicked" and I got it. It wasn't technique and formula - suddenly I knew how. That was why subsequently I was an awful instructor - and I know I was, but inevitably was made responsible for training up to OC Trg at a CRC because I was good at my job.

In retrospect the nurture are the best instructors - they know how to teach nurture students - natural fliers will pick it up anyway and also some off the additional lessons. Natural instructors on the other hand have no comprehension of the problems that those less gifted experience.

I can remember students remonstrating with them as to why I had told them what they had done one day was right, but the next day was wrong and all I could respond was - "because", and as to why I did something at a particular moment and because all I could respond was because "it felt right" and they'd get it eventually. And why some controllers hated controlling and threw up before or after difficult sorties and why I loved and revelled in them - bring them on!

You need both.
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Old 17th Apr 2017, 20:48
  #43 (permalink)  
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Right at the front of my F5000 it read..... "Taylor is not a natural pilot"
I knew that, they knew that, so what was the answer?
I learned, slowly, to manage my time and capacity. I packaged things into neat little SOPs and ended up on a single pilot Puma squadron. Often, I would land from complex sorties and have no recollection of the last 90 minutes for debrief. I considered quitting, even after making combat ready.
After a while, it just clicked. I went to CFS and did pretty well on the course and found that I could read students really quickly. Most needed help organising their thoughts and could be taught to free up capacity. Most went on to be good squadron pilots and a few got FJ crossovers and did very well.
I now have a successful civvie flying career. So you can nurture people.

That said, I would still never make it as a FJ pilot. To do that, there MUST be a large chunk of natural ability.
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Old 17th Apr 2017, 20:58
  #44 (permalink)  
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One was a Marquis.
What, like a posh tent?

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Old 18th Apr 2017, 09:19
  #45 (permalink)  
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He was posted as a co-pilot on Vulcan 2s. Apparently he objected to this on the basis that being in single figures in line for the Throne he wasn't going to take orders from a commoner.
He ended up on Canberras instead.

RIP Angus.
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Old 18th Apr 2017, 19:43
  #46 (permalink)  
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Like MSOCS, I'm with gums; however...

Although I would be considered to fall into the "natural" category, I really struggled for the first 50 hours because (as I later came to realize) of the quality of the "nurture". As a child of the Vulcan/Victor/Shackleton co-pilot instructor era in the early 80s, FJ instructors (other than creamies - that's FAIPs to you, gums) were very rare. That's not to say that all were uniformly bad, but some definitely struggled to "do" it themselves - which often had ramifications.

I was very lucky to switch at the 50-hour point to two brand-new (straight out of CFS) FJ instructors, at which point I never looked back. After 3 (count 'em) basic flying tests and a scraped pass to that point, I never again re-took any sortie, test or check-ride at any level in 4 different front-line aircraft - including the qualified weapons instructor course - over 20+ years.

But it is also worth noting, as gums identifies, that the "nature/nurture" divide reasserted itself once you'd made it onto FJs, albeit obviously at a higher level. There was the initial single-seat/two-seat aptitude/selection divide (choices notwithstanding) and then, once on the front line, there was the "squash ladder". Very quickly, everyone knew precisely where they were on that squadron ladder; and, with very few exceptions, all those at the top were in the "nature" camp. These were the actual and eventual QWIs, TPs, display pilots and Red Arrows. I generalize (some were inbound to airlines from Day One and would only contemplate CFS, for example) but you get my meaning.

At the end of my career (as a Squadron Commander) I used to get a lot of offended responses from my peers when I said that all it took to be a FJ pilot was the unthinking combination of reasonable hand-eye coordination and mental arithmetic skills. (Imagine unwinding altimeters, due to pressure error correction, while concentrating on a rock steady VSI in the turn at low-level at night during an acceleration from 350 to 600 knots all while working the radar hand-controller in gain and elevation and simultaneously calculating your bingo. Lightnings as a first tour were a real barrel of laughs, but everything afterwards was immeasurably easier for the experience). But I maintain that plenty of intelligent sporty types I knew at school would have been perfectly capable of the same - as many of their predecessors had proved during World War II and the early jet age. And, of course, they would have had to have the requisite drive and determination to succeed; but that's true for many professionals, not just military practitioners.

Yes, the newer types are more decision-driven than the older ones and, being much easier to fly, don't demand quite so much of your maths-and-motor skills. But you still have to be sufficiently ahead of the jet - in a more complex and connected environment - to operate it.

So "nature" might be the glib answer, but not - as very I nearly learned to my cost - without a good dose of "nurture".
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Old 18th Apr 2017, 19:58
  #47 (permalink)  
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sarnie, true a school contemporary was a sporty type and went straight to Lightnings. Sadly he was killed but not through any fault of his own.
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Old 19th Apr 2017, 10:43
  #48 (permalink)  
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As someone who failed OASC twice ('82 and '84) and then gave up, this thread has been a fascinating read! Prior to my visit in '84, I thought I'd steal a march and at least go solo. I was sent solo quite quickly (I think?). I just checked my Pooley's......I was sent solo by the legendary and formidable Sqn ldr Ken Jackson....sadly no longer with us after 6.4 hours. Ok, it was a Cessna 150.....about as simple as it gets! I'm fairly sure I could have flown something but I'm also certain I couldn't have operated anything. I'm also pretty sure that had I been in a chop ride situation, it would have ended badly. The system just wouldn't have had the time to "nurture" any talent I might have had. Wish I'd thought more about the board's recommendation in '82 that I'd have made "excellent NCO aircrew"......ah well!
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Old 19th Apr 2017, 11:21
  #49 (permalink)  
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Well, I always wanted to fly helicopters, but I was sent FJ, by those who know better, and flew a variety of FJs for 30 years.
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Old 19th Apr 2017, 12:14
  #50 (permalink)  
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Aircrew, I believe, appear as a body to be less risk averse than engineers. The difference is that aircrew control their own risk whereas engineers control risk of others.
Interesting point. I'm not particularly risk averse in general life, but when it comes to aeroplanes I am not risk averse, I simply will not release anything to service that isn't completely airworthy. Risk isn't part of the equation. Was I indoctrinated or is it a natural characteristic of those with an aptitude for engineering?
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Old 19th Apr 2017, 12:29
  #51 (permalink)  
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BS, I would say that is 100% risk adverse. You don't want to risk the lives of others.
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Old 19th Apr 2017, 13:44
  #52 (permalink)  
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As one of the 'rare' FJ QFIs in the BFTS system in the 80s, I think there was a fairly clear nature/nurture divide but it did not divide cleanly around FJ/ME/RW lines! I can think of several streamed RW who were excellent aviators with bags of capacity but who were not comfortable with close formation or the high-dynamic events (as far is this was possible in a JP). Same for ME. There were also people still afloat in the FJ stream but who would probably be a training risk once they got to the SAP/weapons phase.

It was not until I did the CFS course, dragged kicking and screaming from the end of my first FJ tour, that I realised just how bad a few of my BFTS instructors had been. The penny should perhaps have dropped at Valley, when the (bona mate) QFI response to my first IP-tgt run was "What was that?!" followed by a question about whether I had been taught it by a Vulcan or a Victor pilot (= the latter) and then a demo of how it should actually be done.

My other conclusion about nature/nurture is that poor instruction can put a serious brake on talent that not all will be able to overcome. On the other side of that coin, good instruction can raise someone's game to the point where competence (but not brilliance) becomes possible. That comes back to the argument about putting the good students with the good instructors and letting the others sink or swim.
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Old 19th Apr 2017, 14:16
  #53 (permalink)  
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Entirely agree with Fortissimo's "around FJ/ME/RW lines" argument (and the rest of his post), but in my era the system culled the non-FJ-capable guys before AFTS, so many who might have made it never got the chance to prove it...

All my ME and RW contemporaries only got there via being re-streamed from failing at AFTS, TWU or OCU.
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Old 19th Apr 2017, 14:41
  #54 (permalink)  
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Thanks for nice words, Sarn.

Although USAF went thru the politically correct phase once or twice, the selection for the high performance slots came back to evaluations by the training outfit and instructors as to whether the candidate was a "keeper".

In my A-7 days as an IP, we had one of the first "anybody can fly any jet" troops at The Beach. Flew into the ground one night at the range while on a radar pass. Saw another similar loss years later in the Viper, where the fellow was in the "nurture" category, but had some personal problems that may have been in the way. We ( USAF) got out of that PC mode but stretched things a bit to get some females into fighters and "combat" slots during the late 90's. I supported the females, but did not want any to be advanced without demonstrating everything expected in the performance of the criterion task ( ya can tell I was an IP and have an advanced degree in education, huh?).

One thing I wanted to get out is I saw several of the "naturals" stretch the envelope when they not have to. My best example was the USAF "top gun" that pressed a screwed up attack versus aborting and we have the HUD video of the impact -you don't see individual sage bushes until last two seconds. Also had a classmate in 'nam that pressed too many times until it caught him. There are times to press, but mostly the "hero" type situations. And even then one must not press on knowing it's a kamikaze outcome.

So I helped several "nurtured" folks check out in three jets. The "hands" needed to be fair, but the overall airmanship was the prime ingredient, IMHO. I also saw several "naturals" that should have been in Phantoms or 'vaarks to have "Jimminy Cricket" siting right there to help.

Gums sends...
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Old 19th Apr 2017, 15:59
  #55 (permalink)  
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(Not really "on Thread", but near enough).

A bit before you were born, I was on my "Primary" at Carlstrom Field, Arcadia.
We did our 60 hours on the "Stearman" with no ASI - we were taught to "Fly Attitude". We felt no pain - what you've never had, you never miss.

Did any other Air Force do this ? (the RAF didn't). Does the USAF do it now, or was it just a USAAC thing ? (I've been glad of it many a time when being tossed about in a monsoon cu-nim in Burma). Possibly it could have saved AF447.

Still treasure my Air Corps silver wings.
Old 19th Apr 2017, 18:58
  #56 (permalink)  
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A futile discussion. Its a mixture of nature and nurture.
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Old 19th Apr 2017, 20:15
  #57 (permalink)  
Ecce Homo! Loquitur...
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Most discussion is futile - but enjoyable.
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Old 19th Apr 2017, 20:19
  #58 (permalink)  
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I spent 3 yrs as an exchange Eagle IP, teaching ab initios and many retreads from other USAF types, from B52 to F4 and a variety of Guard technicians. Despite much nurturing, it was almost impossible to wash out the ones with no nature. One that I did recommend to finish almost ended in a court case.
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Old 20th Apr 2017, 18:48
  #59 (permalink)  
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Can't speak for anyone else, but this is my experience:
During basic flight training I had no trouble on approach or in the pattern and could aviate, navigate and communicate simultaneously without seemingly much effort. But what I could not "see" or "feel" was the last several feet to the landing, be it full stop or touch and go. My instructor pilot could not solve it. I got a new instructor pilot and he quickly determined that I was "spotting the deck" rather than looking out at the horizon. That solved it for me almost instantly. So while I apparently had "good hands", I definitely needed a little nurturing.

And with the F-35 and similar digital jets, the "nature" seems to be quite different than it was in my time. Apparently, one no longer needs "good hands" because the fly-by-wire provides that. But one does need a "good head" that can use all the high tech stuff to maximum advantage. It appears that at least some of the "right stuff" is different now.

Last edited by KenV; 20th Apr 2017 at 19:03.
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Old 20th Apr 2017, 19:04
  #60 (permalink)  
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KenV .. perhaps partly explains why I washed to of flying training on a tail-dragger, having got my PPL on a nose-wheel. I was wedded to the instrument panel
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