The overall purpose of primary and intermediate flight training, as outlined in this handbook, is the acquisition and honing of basic airmanship skills. Airmanship can be defined as:
- Asound acquaintance with the principles of flight,
- The ability to operate an airplane with competence and precision both on the ground and in the air, and
- The exercise of sound judgment that results in optimal operational safety and efficiency.
Learning to fly an airplane has often been likened to learning to drive an automobile. This analogy is misleading. Since an airplane operates in a different environment, three dimensional, it requires a type of motor skill development that is more sensitive to this situation such as:
- Coordination—The ability to use the hands and feet together subconsciously and in the proper relationship to produce desired results in the airplane.
- Timing—The application of muscular coordination at the proper instant to make flight, and all maneuvers incident thereto, a constant smooth process.
- Control touch—The ability to sense the action of the airplane and its probable actions in the immediate future, with regard to attitude and speed variations, by the sensing and evaluation of varying pressures and resistance of the control surfaces transmitted through the cockpit flight controls.
- Speed sense—The ability to sense instantly and react to any reasonable variation of airspeed.
An airman becomes one with the airplane rather than a machine operator. An accomplished airman demonstrates the ability to assess a situation quickly and accurately and deduce the correct procedure to be followed under the circumstance; to analyze accurately the probable results of a given set of circumstances or of a proposed procedure; to exercise care and due regard for safety; to gauge accurately the performance of the airplane; and to recognize personal limitations and limitations of the airplane and avoid approaching the critical points of each. The development of airmanship skills requires effort and dedication on the part of both the student pilot and the flight instructor, beginning with the very first training flight where proper habit formation begins with the student being introduced to good operating practices.
Every airplane has its own particular flight characteristics. The purpose of primary and intermediate flight training, however, is not to learn how to fly a particular make and model airplane. The underlying purpose of flight training is to develop skills and safe habits that are transferable to any airplane. Basic airmanship skills serve as a firm foundation for this. The pilot who has acquired necessary airmanship skills during training, and demonstrates these skills by flying training-type airplanes with precision and safe flying habits, will be able to easily transition to more complex and higher performance airplanes. It should also be remembered that the goal of flight training is a safe and competent pilot, and that passing required practical tests for pilot certification is only incidental to this goal.