The Almighty Question
In aviation, questions can mean the difference between life and death. We, as pilots, ask questions to clarify, organize, and/or verify important information about a flight whether it be the weather, aircraft systems operations, performance, or asking the tower to repeat or verify an instruction.
In aviation, there also is no room for embarrassment for being afraid to ask a question or speak up about something - no matter if you are a student pilot, or any rank within a commercial airliner. Most of the time, people do not ask questions out of fear. This is a habit that must be eliminated. Also, not asking questions, even if one is interested, yet still afraid to ask, shows flight instructors regardless that their students are dis-interested.
We are pilots. Aviation is our passion. We care about it and wish to spread our passion. My question is: Shouldn't we be so interested in whatever we are being taught that we would always be asking questions? Well, yes, we do ask questions not only to fuel our interests and passions in aviation further but also help improve our knowledge and make the aviation industry a better place.
QUESTION + ANSWER = LEARNING
I have personally come to believe that there is no right or wrong way to ask a question. A question is a question and should be asked. However, I focus personally on how specific I form my questions based on what I am being taught by a flight instructor. The way I word my questions is more important than the specific answers I am receiving back. We all know the basic questions such as, "Who?", "What?" "When?" "Where?", "Why?" More specifically, some of the biggest questions that I ask myself, especially before going into a training session is, "What will my instructor expect from me?", "Which checklists, maneuvers, or procedures will I be performing?", "What are the key terms or points that I will need to gain out of this session?", "What can I do to apply this flight session with other areas of my flight training?", "Which spontaneous and simulated emergency situation will happen to the aircraft/flight during this training session that I will be expected to catch and rectify immediately?", "How will my gains from this training session apply for whichever FAA examination I take in the future?" So, the more I, we, ask these types of specific questions, the quicker we get the answers we need, the quicker we get the most important information without wasting time researching, and the easier the exams and line checks will be. In aviation, time is money. Asking the right questions, can help save both, we gain knowledge, and improve examination skills all in the same flight bag.
There are times when I am in a session and there is so much information that is given by my instructor that I have to soak it in before questions start to occur. When I am asked by my CFI, "Do you have any questions?" I sometimes reply, "I do not have at the moment, but that doesn't mean that I will not have any in the future once the information sinks in." Sure enough, we continue the session and I end up calling my CFI later that day with my list of specific questions to which he is most happy to answer, even if it is at three a.m.
Questions show that you both listen and learn.
VERIFY, VERIFY, VERIFY...
Sometimes I catch my self asking the same questions over and over. Not because I wasn't listening, but I was re-verifying information - especially if there is a difficult or emergency procedure. Don't be afraid to verify information, no matter how many times. It doesn't matter whether it's a CFI, co-pilot, or even the ATC Tower, especially. Do not be afraid of what they may think about your ability to absorb information. If you have a good instructor, he/she will think more of you that you are doing your best to listen, take interest, and to be a responsible/safe pilot.
"TEST THE LIMITS"
Not only can questions be used to spark (more) interest and verify pertinent information, but I've also learned that they can also be used to "test the limits" of information. For example:
- "When does this flight pattern not apply to this given approach during this type of weather?"
- "What happens when icing conditions occur at this altitude and diversions are limited?"
- "What if icing conditions occur on the wing and I enter into a high altitude stall?"
I will admit, I like to look at extreme case scenarios and for good reason. I push and test the information limits to be prepared, two to three steps ahead.
Don't doubt the power of the almighty question. Not only will you learn from what you ask, but you will also test your limits and show you things that you never thought you could do before.