Aviation Anniversaries and Complacency

By Scott Spangler on May 20th, 2019

FT June 1989Trying to be a good father, I spent a rainy weekend making a recycling run though boxes that have lived unopened for more than a decade in the closet of the spare bedroom. Accepting that my expiration date, while unknown, is growing ever closer, I didn’t want to burden my boys with this task should my last day arrive sooner rather than later. In the process, I found this, the inaugural issue of Flight Training, June 1989, the aviation anniversary of a transition in my journalism career.

Slowly turning the pages I had not looked at or thought about for maybe 29 years recollected not only memories of the good people who brought this publication to life, but the emotions that filled me with life as we worked to this end. Like courses of bricks laid on a foundation of unquenchable anticipation were cyclic variations of confidence, ability, and knowledge. Determination was their mortar. United, they presented a challenge I was eager to meet every day.

It’s been awhile since I’ve felt that way. Why was that? The determination of my mortar must be unimpaired because I’m commencing my fourth decade in the field. But my emotional bricks are not as vibrant or clearly defined as they were when the inaugural issue came off the presses. Is the passage of time since my aviation anniversary the efflorescence that has muted them? Might complacency be an emotional efflorescence?

BricksUnchecked efflorescence weakens the structural integrity of the integrated bricks and mortar. Complacency acts similarly on the integrity of our integrated emotions, knowledge, and skills. Time is an insidious process. It can build experience and breed complacency, and I wondered if the former is my delusional assessment of the latter?

Might reasoned anxiety be the defining distinction between experience and complacency? When I made my solo flight on March 27, 1976, this member of the anxiety clan was my unseen passenger. This uneasy concern about the contingencies of flight has been with me on every flight since. And the more I learned, the more experience is gained, the more thoroughly I pursued its antidote, preflight research, granular planning, and recurrent training and periodic assessment of my knowledge and skills.

Clearly, reasoned anxiety is a self-imposed emotion, but recalling and building on the feeling of my solo flight (and instrument rating) has (so far) kept me and my passengers safe and sound. And preparing for the contingencies of every flight is a large part of what makes flying fun for me. As a bonus, perusing the knowledge and experience needed to compound the antidote to my reasoned anxiety recalls the people and situations that made them possible. Certainly the same process will work with the my terrestrial life as well. – Scott Spangler, Editor

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