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Mil Pilot - Nature or Nurture?

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Mil Pilot - Nature or Nurture?

Old 21st Apr 2017, 15:28
  #61 (permalink)  
 
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Hmm, chopped on IF as a Wessex 1 pilot, then made a bit of a mark on Harriers. Not sure what that proves.
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Old 21st Apr 2017, 16:01
  #62 (permalink)  

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Mogwi

obviously you needed the maturing influence that the Wessex 2 provided for you!

jayteeto

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.
Exactly so - and you will also recall that - with few exceptions - the better instructors had usually had to struggle a bit in their stude years.
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Old 21st Apr 2017, 18:37
  #63 (permalink)  
 
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Originally Posted by KenV View Post
. It appears that at least some of the "right stuff" is different now.
I think it always has been. However, the question for aviation today is: should we require basic stick and brain skills to be equal with IT skills? If not, I see little future, or point, for human piloting skill.

OAP
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Old 21st Apr 2017, 19:07
  #64 (permalink)  
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OAP, like navigation skills.

If lost call for help.
If no help bang out.

Simply, modern aircraft cannot be flown mechanically.
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Old 22nd Apr 2017, 11:20
  #65 (permalink)  
 
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Over the years I have converted pilots from very varied backgrounds onto a wide range of types, including fast jet pilots onto ME types and vice versa. I have always found the differences in how different individuals perform fascinating and have tried to work out why.

The starting point in the nature vs nurture discussion is what is meant by a natural pilot? To answer this we need to look at what the piloting task is. A pilot controls the flightpath of an aircraft and has to make control inputs to achieve what is required. He/she must make the required control inputs to initiate a manoeuvre then scan the required cues (visual attitude, ASI, altimeter, g meter etc) in a pattern relevant to that manoeuvre and then must correct any errors in the required flightpath with further control inputs.

A natural pilot is one who intuitively has the required scan pattern at a high rate such that he/she can detect errors in the flightpath very rapidly when they are still small and then has a valid muscle memory to make the required correcting control inputs. Muscle memory is, arguably, a learnt characteristic (nurture) and some people are more adaptable than others ie. learn more quickly. In this respect a 'natural' pilot could be considered as one who acquires the correct muscle memory very quickly such that, effectively, it becomes intuitive/sub conscious. If the muscle memory and error detection is intuitive it will reduce the amount of mental capacity required to fly the aircraft. If this is not intuitive (ie. a non-natural pilot) it can often be learnt but will require more mental capacity which may then become a limiting factor for what roles a given pilot can undertake.

In addition to the pure flying task, a pilot has to make decisions (airmanship) and complete secondary tasks (eg. mission system operation). Mission system operation inevitably is learned (ie. nurture not nature). Decision making requires a mental model which also is usually learnt (again, nurture). However, the ability to complete the decision making and secondary tasks relies on mental capacity and this does vary markedly between individuals. Therefore, a 'natural' pilot who has average mental capacity may well have the spare capacity to make the decisions and complete the secondary tasks required for most if not all missions. However, a non-natural pilot with the same mental capacity may, for some tasks, become task saturated such that he cannot undertake high workload missions.

Some aspects such as employment of checklists and SOPs will always be nurture. And then there is CRM (which does still apply to single-seat formation and multi-aircraft operations). Some of this is nurture but nature plays a major part here; this encompasses all roles but I have heard of cases where some of the pilots who are more challenged in this respect were sent single-seat if they had the other abilities required!

To return to the original question regarding nature vs nurture and fighter pilots, the fast-jet missions are typically high workload. Therefore, fighter pilots need to be either natural pilots in order to have the spare mental capacity to perform the decision making and mission tasks or they have to have high mental capacity in order to absorb the increased workload resulting from learned/nurtured pure flying skills.

The interesting case is when an individual has natural flying ability but relatively low mental capacity such that they will never have the spare capacity for the high workload secondary tasks of some missions.

All of the above is personal opinion based of many years of observation. I am interested on the thoughts of you all on this.
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Old 22nd Apr 2017, 12:14
  #66 (permalink)  
 
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A fascinating deconstruction, which makes much sense to me. No wonder I never made it as a pilot!!

However, I also see the read-across to ATC. I won't presume on your time to elaborate, but the workload aspects (the spare capacity to multi-task and problem-solve whilst holding 3 or more simultaneous 'conversations', rather than just following the rules) seem pertinent. Mastering the basics does not make a controller, there's also that 4-dimensional awareness which is surely 'nature'.
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Old 22nd Apr 2017, 12:58
  #67 (permalink)  
 
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Salute, LOM

Very good analysis of the "naturals" with only one exception - "hands", or "touch".

My own experience as an IP in three attack/fighter jets was mostly with the "naturals" as you postulated, but I also had what I called "technicians", that seem to have exhibited the "nurtured" charateristic. My definition was those folks were very "mechanical" WRT the basics of flying. Not only a slow scan rate of attitude, speed, body rates and such, but they could not"feel" the plane or what it was telling them like the "naturals"

I am not bragging when I assert I was a "natural". Except for over control of yaw on takeoff my first 2 or 3 hops, I was ready to solo and did. Figure 4 hours or so. I was 16 years old. Later, going thru USAF pilot indocrination and then the T-37, it was the same way. My only bad grades were "spin entry", duh? I just had a hard time holding the controls in an unusual position long enough. I could feel the imminent stall and had been taught by my civilian IP long before to first relax back stick, use rudder to keep pointing end forward and wings level ( not much aileron) and then even push forward if required. The key was recognizing the imminent stall. Some planes I flew had very little shake, rattle and roll or wing rock or "nibble". One had pronounced wing rock, one had a fair amount of "burble" and finally shaking before it departed. The Deuce had nothing but a "buzz" as it developed a healthy sink rate, but directional control was no problem although you could spin it if you tried hard enuf..

When I became an IP, I would point out the indications of an imminent stall as well as other characteristics of the plane - asking the student, " can you feel that?". Not surprisingly in the fighter/attack courses, most of my students caught on very easily and some recognized "bad" things without my help. A very few had to be nurtured, with some just depending upon attitude/airspeed scan rate. Those few would sometimes have problems adding/incorporating the other tasks as you have pointed out.

So I would add the "touch" attribute to the "natural" definition, LOM.

Gums opines...

Last edited by gums; 22nd Apr 2017 at 13:02. Reason: corrections
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Old 22nd Apr 2017, 13:48
  #68 (permalink)  
 
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gums,

Thanks. My comment
.. can detect errors in the flightpath very rapidly when they are still small and then has a valid muscle memory to make the required correcting control inputs.
is, I think, what you are referring to as 'touch'. That is, intuitively they can apply the correct control displacements and forces to achieve the required response. In addition, they can use the control forces as part of the cues for feedback loop data. I guess that 'touch' or 'feel' is a simpler way of saying the same thing!

Rgds

L
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Old 22nd Apr 2017, 15:25
  #69 (permalink)  
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To touch could you add feel? The ability to jump in to a strange type but quickly hand!e that type?
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Old 22nd Apr 2017, 15:39
  #70 (permalink)  
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I have known a couple of reputedly highly competent FJ pilots who I did sometimes wonder if they had the mental capacity to fly and chew gum at the same time......
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Old 22nd Apr 2017, 15:53
  #71 (permalink)  
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MPN11,
there's also that 4-dimensional awareness which is surely 'nature'.
Back in the 80s there was a concerted effort to try and improve the FC course pass rate, which as ever hovered around 30%, so a lot of boffins were brought to do tests upon those qualified to find out why we succeeded where others failed and to produce, in their terms, "a mathematical model of a fighter controller".

Lots of fun ensued as they stuck helmets on our heads with [email protected] on stalks and shown lights in our eyes to see what we were looking at as we controlled as we were controllling, scan pattern, memory and spatial tests. Every now and then they made a major discovery of they were very proud and deigned to share with us - such as we looked at things that moved or changed rapidly more often than slow moving objects or information thN rarely changed. Who'da thunk it.

Eventually they discovered that, indeed, controllers had very high spatial awareness!!

So they then decided to follow a couple of courses through from start to finish and see if their theory was correct. All candidates were checked before starting and a puzzling thing was found, apart from a slight variation everyone was about the same. Then a strange thing happened, those who progressed were showed a higher and higher level whilst those who failed did not, until by the end those who qualified met the profile of those originally tested.

Nurture, not nature.
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Old 22nd Apr 2017, 16:21
  #72 (permalink)  
 
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Good point, Pont

"feel" works with "touch". One day I had a chunk of ice come loose in my intake shortly after takeoff. As I moved the throttle for rejoin I felt a vibration, and this was a few seconds after the thump of the large icecube, heh heh. So back to original throttle position, call flight for the abort and to see if engine gauges were showing weird things ( think Sully). The vibration was the biggie, and many folks I flew with would not have noticed. But having felt the "thump" 10 or 15 seconds before that, I was maybe more sensitive than normal. My original thot was a bird strike, but I could not see feathers on the leading edges and gear was already up.

I came around heavy weight using speed brakes for whatever they would do with my speed and left throttle where it was until on the runway. You know, "thanks God, I'll take over now."

Between 60 to 70 compressor/fan blades destroyed, missing or bent!!!!

So my view is "feel" is a player, and maybe the "touch" and muscular aspects LOM points out enable "execution" and the proper "response".

The absence of direct connections to the flight control surfaces since the 50's is/was a big thing for we fast movers. Until 90's, and even afterwards except for a few transport planes, no cables or pushrods. Nada. So our butt and "feel" of the airframe and the motor had to be decent.

The FBW sportscar I flew for almost 5 years was really a challenge, as not only was there no feedback, but the stick didn't move more than 1/16th inch and in the family model you could not "feel" or see what the nugget in the front seat was inputting. My salvation was having chased newbies about for 600 hours or so in the A-7D, where I was camped out on his wing close as I dared. I could only watch and experience with my own butt and such to offer advice. Made it lots easier for me later in the Viper.

Gums opines...

Last edited by gums; 22nd Apr 2017 at 16:39. Reason: typos
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Old 22nd Apr 2017, 17:05
  #73 (permalink)  
 
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PN,

The ability to jump from one type to another is something that has not been touched upon much here - adaptability. To me, this is the ability for a pilot to change his/her control input gains in order to achieve a desired response or to correct a detected flightpath error across different aircraft types. The control input differences between types is manifest as variations in the stick forces and displacements required to achieve a given response (the relationship between which varies between types and at different flight conditions) plus variations in the required application rate/frequency of control inputs. This all relates to the muscle memory aspects that I discussed previously and how quickly a pilot can learn and 'remember' a new set of gains. The adaptability of a pilot to switch from one type to another is definitely a strong function of natural ability. It can be taught/nurtured to an extent for most pilots but some will always find it difficult.

Multi-type flying has been my life for 37 years. The problem is that if someone has never done it they may not believe that it is possible to do it safely and well. For some pilots it is possible but you still have to work hard at it. How many types? I have stayed current to military regulations on 9 and simultaneously flown up to about other 6 types under different regulations, with a maximum of 4 in one day (covering 4-engine piston, modern fast-jet and WWII fighter). Golden days!

Last edited by LOMCEVAK; 22nd Apr 2017 at 17:37.
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Old 22nd Apr 2017, 17:52
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ORAC ... ISTR around that time there was a bit of an 'instructor attitude problem' too. Where 'chopping' was the flavour of the day? Or was that just a nasty inter-Branch rumour?
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Old 22nd Apr 2017, 18:18
  #75 (permalink)  
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Originally Posted by LOMCEVAK View Post
PN,

The ability to jump from one type to another is something that has not been touched upon much here - adaptability. To me, this is the ability for a pilot to change his/her control input gains in order to achieve a desired response or to correct a detected flightpath error across different aircraft types. The control input differences between types is manifest as variations in the stick forces and displacements required to achieve a given response (the relationship between which varies between types and at different flight conditions) plus variations in the required application rate/frequency of control inputs. This all relates to the muscle memory aspects that I discussed previously and how quickly a pilot can learn and 'remember' a new set of gains. The adaptability of a pilot to switch from one type to another is definitely a strong function of natural ability. It can be taught/nurtured to an extent for most pilots but some will always find it difficult.

Multi-type flying has been my life for 37 years. The problem is that if someone has never done it they may not believe that it is possible to do it safely and well. For some pilots it is possible but you still have to work hard at it. How many types? I have stayed current to military regulations on 9 and simultaneously flown up to about other 6 types under different regulations, with a maximum of 4 in one day (covering 4-engine piston, modern fast-jet and WWII fighter). Golden days!
Many thanks LM, there have been some excellent replies, and I think you have easily matched those.

Additional thanks to all contributors, I'm impressed I have generated four pages of replies!

TN.
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Old 22nd Apr 2017, 18:52
  #76 (permalink)  
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ORAC ... ISTR around that time there was a bit of an 'instructor attitude problem' too. Where 'chopping' was the flavour of the day? Or was that just a nasty inter-Branch rumour?
Not having instructed at the School I couldn't say - but as the LEO on unit who received the output, the standard was not particularly high.

Perhaps the major problem was that we were still teaching to the close control standard required for the Lightning which was still in service, and it was very demanding, whilst the airspace was becoming more and more congested. In comparison with the F3 era when the jets have far more SA due to data links, there were far less sorties and the job was far more assigning targets and coordination with air traffic, the jobs were almost totally different in comparison. Of course at that time you couldn't tell where you'd be posted or what you controlled at your home unit or on detachment, so everyone had to be able to do it.

Before I left close control had been dropped from the basic course and was taught as an add-on for experienced controllers for tours where they might need it. I imagine it is now just a distant memory.

Memory - U26A intercept Tgt M1.6, Ftr M1.8, 180 degree intercept with 26nm offset for conversion to a 90 cross ahead 8 miles with 1nm roll-out - and a radar with a 15 second rate of rotation, whilst coordinating with LATCC and Eastern on the traffic around, and trying to complete as close to the Binbrook dive arc as possible, whilst trying to maintain 30mm from the coast. The only advantage being the Ltg didn't have mode C....

Last edited by ORAC; 22nd Apr 2017 at 19:16.
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Old 22nd Apr 2017, 19:00
  #77 (permalink)  
 
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Thread drift...

Apart from yourselves or oneself, who was the best stick and rudder guy (girl if we are being PC) you ever saw or flew with?
Mine, years ago I had the chance to ride in a Ag aircraft whilst on holiday in of all places New Zealand. Having mentioned my background I was duly treated to such a magnificent and precise display of low level high AOA flying I was left almost speechless. The gentleman's name whom I shall not mention was a former single seater who also held a test pilot certificate in rotary-wing. In terms of being one with his machine it was fascinating to watch and I took a lot away and back to the Squadron from that 30 minute master class. The big thing was for me that military flying and aviators weren't the bee all and end all that Id thought we were.
Just a thought for you lot.
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Old 22nd Apr 2017, 20:58
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Monarch Man,

An interesting thread drift! There are many facets to flying and I have always found that within any group of pilots, however talented they are, some are better than others at a given event. For example, aerobatics, formation flying, ACM, unguided weaponry. Therefore, I believe that it is not possible to ever name one 'best' pilot. However, I do agree with you in that some of the best stick-and-rudder pilots I have ever watched or flown with were not military or military trained.
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Old 22nd Apr 2017, 21:20
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One thing no-one has mentioned is the "sixth sense" that can come with experience.
Dark night, Twin-jet airliner. Light icing conditions. I "sensed" something wasn't quite right. The hairs on the back of my neck were almost standing up. A check of all engine, system and flight instruments showed all was normal, but the sensation would not go away. A check of the wing with the ice-light; all OK, anti-icing working normally. Only a short sector, and at top of descent there was a terrific vibration and the port engine warning for severe vibration lit up. Check list followed, and engine shut down. I was now quite calm and relieved. The unknown I had been waiting for had happened. An engineering check after landing revealed no damage. The engines were rear-mounted, and the only explanation anyone could come up with was that, although the wing leading-edge anti-icing was functioning, somehow a large chunk of ice had built up on the wing surface, and detached itself into the intake.
I was talking with one of the fleet trainers about it a couple of days later, and his comment was that experience can build up a feeling or "sixth sense" of problems, even when they are not detectable by normal means. Dunno, just saying.
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Old 22nd Apr 2017, 23:00
  #80 (permalink)  
 
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In agreement with LOMCEVAK, so many different skills:

Low level, leading a balbo, harry doggers, winning the debrief, weaponeering, radar, HOTAS, recce, basic handling, formation, aeros, formation aeros, instrument flying, number 3 in the flat turn at Deci with the boss at 4.

Some naturally good at one, distinctly average at another; the odd bloke disconcertingly good at everything. Horses for courses. Though however able you were, you'd always be better at it if you were well nurtured.

Having then to perform under the pressure of someone shooting at you, I would imagine would bring its own challenges.

Last edited by blimey; 22nd Apr 2017 at 23:16.
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