What being a pilot taught me – Loic Le Meur

I recently came across a blog from LinkedIn influencer Loic Le Meur, a San Francisco based pilot and entrepreneur. Like me, Loic has caught the aviation bug, and it is certainly a hard one to shake!

Loic’s words accurately discuss aviation as a skill that requires hours, days, weeks and months of planning. Each flight must be thoughtfully prepared and performed with a clear mind. Importantly is his message to never underestimate aviation, your ego is never more important than your ability to fly safely.

As I prepare for my journey, I find it important t reiterate these same lessons that Loic discusses, bring my thought process back to the building blocks of what I need for a safe flight and then return to thoroughly planning each facet of my journey.

It’s worth a read!

(You can read the original post on LinkedIn HERE)


What being a pilot taught me – Loic Le Meur

I have the flying bug. It was my dream and I managed to make it come true. As a pilot I learned many lessons I can apply to business and life in general, here are a few of them.

Humility and being present.

Each time I’m going to fly it does not matter if it’s a jet or a paraglider. You have to have a clear mind and put your ego aside. Things can go wrong at any moment. You can forget something. You have to be focused and put aside anything else worrying you. If I carry passengers I don’t drink much if at all the night before and get some sleep. I have to clear my mind and make sure I think about everything. I visualize the flight and what I need to do. If I have something important that worries me in my mind I have to learn to “box it for later” and only think about the flight, or take a co-pilot with me.

Think “ahead of the nose” of the aircraft

You cannot fly at 500 miles per hour and not think about the step ahead or even two steps ahead of time. When you start the engines you already thought about where you will taxi the aircraft. When you take-off you know your flight plan and already have the approach in mind. If you show up into an instrument approach at high speed and have not prepared your instrument approach you will experience un-necessary stress and likely make a mistake. Jets do not slow down easily so if you do not prepare your final approach early you simply will not land because you won’t be able to extend your flaps and landing gear. It’s okay you can do a 360 and slow down but that’s not pretty…

I learned to think ahead, always. Being in the present isn’t enough, you have to always plan for a few steps ahead, especially plan for things not going as planned. This is precious learning for business too.

Plan for the worst, nothing will surprise you

A few days ago I shot an instruments approach with low ceiling, low visibility and a light snow storm in a mountain airport. I am perfectly trained to fly in the clouds and bad weather and the plane has incredible deicing and great instruments so weather isn’t really a problem. I was entirely prepared to go around and execute the published missed approach. I planned for it and reviewed in my head a few times what I had to do: at my instruments minimum if I don’t see the runway I go “pitch up, maximum take off power, flaps to approach, positive rate of climb gear up, flaps up, instruments set to FMS navigation missed approach, yaw damper, autopilot on, announce going missed on radio”. That’s a lot to remember but if you’re well trained, fly enough and repeat it a few times as you approach, it’s going to be a piece of cake. I ended up landing at the planned airport as I saw the runway way before reaching my minimums, but I was ready for the alternate airport.

Learn to not even trust yourself, trust data and instruments

When you fly in clouds you barely see the nose of your own aircraft so all you have is your instruments. Your feelings are most of the time wrong. You feel like you’re going up and you’re actually sinking, or vice versa. You might feel like the plane is turning right while it’s actually turning left. You have to learn to trust the instruments and the autopilot more than yourself. Forget what you feel and train your brain to only read data and react accordingly. Watch your speed constantly. Your vertical speed says you’re climbing? You are climbing, even if you feel like you are sinking. You would be surprised to experience how much your senses are wrong while you fly. I learned to not pay attention to anything I feel when I fly instruments.

Focus on what matters most

When you fly instruments there are two things that matter most: attitude (are you flying up, down, left, right, level) and speed (below stall speed you, ahem, fall). This is excellent training for the brain, you constantly come back to these two. Changing something on the GPS? Come back often to attitude and speed indicators. You can never leave them out of sight for more than a few seconds. Another great training in business and life in general. What matters most and coming constantly back to it.

Do nothing when there is an emergency

Turbine engines are extremely reliable, they don’t really fail. Regardless, I got trained in the plane and in a simulator in case I lose an engine. The most critical phases are during take off and initial climb as you are close to the ground. In most powerful planes if you have an engine failure just after you took off you get trained to just do nothing. This is really counter intuitive. You see a red light for emergency or hear the engine stop and yet what you want is to do nothing at all.
Most accidents happen in those moments because the pilot panics and does something wrong before reaching some altitude. For example the pilot will try to secure the failed engine by cutting the fuel going into it. That’s all great except if you pull on the wrong lever and shut down the only good engine left. Or you forget to “fly the plane”, focus on the engine and crash into the hill in front of you.
That was one of the toughest learnings for me. Stay calm. Do nothing. “Oh, I have an engine fire”. Do nothing at all until you reached a thousand feet or two. Then think ahead. What are you going to do? Is this the right engine to touch? Are you still flying the plane. Another great thing to learn. The shit hits the fan and you do absolutely nothing until it’s safe and your brain can quietly analyze what’s happening. Never over react and keep calm. I practice this in a simulator every year.

Follow check-lists and never get over confident

It is very easy to get distracted even when there is no emergency. A passenger is talking to you. The weather is beautiful and you just look around at the great sunset. Remember that huge plane that crashed recently on a beautiful day into San Francisco airport? They were probably over confident and looking outside the window admiring the bay scenery and forgot to maintain their minimum approach speed. They crashed into the runway. In the past an instructor landed without the gear down just in front of me.

It is so easy to forget things in your business, too. There is a entire great book on this one that I highly recommend, the check-list manifesto. A good habit is even to repeat the check-lists aloud, even if the passenger next to you does not understand it or if you fly alone. Your brain remembers much more if you say it aloud instead of reading it in your head.

Shut down the engine and it’s still not over.

We all have this tendency to go too fast. When something important is over we move on to the next one. You landed the plane, you reached your parking position and shut down the engine. It’s still easy to make a mistake at this point and we use check-lists even for shut-down and securing the plane. Another great learning for business. When you are done with a significant project, did you think about everything?

I’m addicted to flying and I am extremely fortunate that I managed to make my dream come true. I have been flying solo for 15 years single engine planes, twin engines, twin turboprops and a citation jet CJ3. Got my commercial, instrument, multi engine and single pilot jet ratings and about 2,000 hours of flying experience, mostly flying solo. I recently started paragliding, too. From 420 knots cruise speed to less than 20 but I’m having so much fun (more fun I would say) flying with no engine, your face in the air, and at zero cost.

Happy Birthday Lachie! Mum & Dad reflect on the first 18yrs

Today the man (officially) behind Wings Around the World celebrates his 18th birthday, a significant milestone socially and also in terms of the record of becoming the youngest pilot to circumnavigate the globe solo, in a single engined aircraft.

In celebration of his birthday, we asked Lachie’ parents Vanessa and Will to write a quick blog and reflect on the man that their son is.

Mum’s Blog

I cannot believe my baby is 18! Even though he has seemed so grown up for quite a while, Lachie’s 18th is a special milestone and one I am really looking forward to celebrating.

Looking back on the last few years I realise just how blessed I am to have Lachie for my son (my one and only child). He has been the “man of the house” for many years and I don’t know where I would be without him. From a practical handyman point of view he has been extremely helpful (thanks to his dad for teaching him these skills!), often fixing things with seemingly little effort when I hadn’t even known where to start.

But I am also extremely grateful for the times he has been a shoulder for me to cry on and just sat there and listened to stuff teenage boys are really not interested in. He has also kept me grounded when I needed it with some very wise pieces of advice – sometimes I didn’t want to hear it though. I know, usually it’s the other way round!

Watching how Lachie has navigated his teenage years leaves me full of admiration. Even though there were times when I really struggled to let go of the apron strings, I just had to do it and let him experience some of life’s lessons. Sometimes sitting on the sideline was really hard, but to see how he grew in character from these experiences warms my heart. I am grateful that we have the kind of relationship where he knew he could come to me if and when he needed to and talk about stuff he was going through. Sometimes he didn’t want to hear my advice though, does that sound familiar?

Lachie Young
Where did the past 18 years go?

We are preparing to celebrate Lachie’s 18th at home with a few (quite a few!) family and friends. I decided this was a good time to go through the entire house and back yard and do a significant spring clean. Lachie has been a bit sick this week but again his character and level of respect for what people are doing for him has shone through with him working hard for days cleaning windows, walls, and anything else he was asked to do, without complaining. Some things I hadn’t even asked him to do – he just knew I would like them done.

To Lachie – happy 18th birthday. Thank you for the most amazing 18 years. I can’t seem to find the words to describe how  proud I am of you and how much I love you.

This next year of your life is going to see the fruition of a big dream of yours and the beginning of an amazing future. Seeing the responsible, independent young man you have become, with the incredible initiative and attention to detail you show, I know this solo flight around the world will be an amazing experience.

Lachie you are a great role model. You have, and are, living up to the message of following your dreams and never giving up, that is behind this flight and I’ll be there for you every step of the way.

Love, Mum xx

Dad’s Blog 

2016 has rapidly become a significant milestone in the life of Lachie Smart, my one and only child.

This year on the 6th of January Lachie turns 18 Years Old and will set his own path in life as a young Aussie man chasing his dreams. Come June, he’ll be a man setting off around the world in his own challenge to be the youngest solo pilot to ever circumnavigate the globe in a single engine aircraft.

This is challenging stuff for me as a parent and obviously an even bigger task for a teenager. Despite this, as I reflect on the man Lachie has become over the past 18 years, there are a number of things that make me feel like her is ready to be crossing the world’s oceans, desserts and mountain ranges in his flying machine.

The past few months has been interesting watching Lachie grow up and face lots of choices, as teenagers do the first year out of school. Many of Lachie’s peers turned 18 this past year, and there have been lots of parties and all the normal challenges of alcohol, girls and various social pressures to navigate.

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Flying with Lachie is something I will never tire of – Will

I’ve seen Lachie go to the parties, have fun but remain as the designated driver. He has faced the first of his challenges with a girlfriend that has come and gone and there have been parties where he could have gone wild but chose not to. Lachie was never interested in partying hard with alcohol and he demonstrates that you can still have all the fun, to even push the boundaries, but without crossing the line into things improper, immoral, unlawful or irresponsible. He has channelled his energies more positively.

Regarding study and flying, of which there has been plenty, Lachie has already had some wonderful adventures, flying family out on joy flights, collecting sick passengers on Angel Flights and taking his mates up into the skies to just have fun or take photos from the air. Lachie has never taken risks, nor shown off or been proud and boastful. In fact he has just organised things and done it well flight after flight, happy safe passenger after happy safe passenger.
Meeting wonderful and inspirational people has been another landmark of the past year. Over the past few years Lachie has witnessed the risks associated with flying and rode the rollercoaster of joy and heartache in aviation land. Moreover he has befriended some amazing people in the aviation community.

In what can only be described as a coincidence, another opportunity to learn awaits Lachie on January 7, a day after his birthday when Tracey Curtis-Taylor arrives in Sydney to conclude an epic solo journey from England to Australia in a classic World War II Aircraft. Curtis Taylor is an amazing pilot who is a pioneer for females, and a inspiration to all and has spent the past months flying a 1942 Boeing Stearman biplane across the globe. Fortunately Lachie will be there to meet Tracey and talk with her about her trip, discuss challenges and understand her pioneering spirit.

I would also like to take a moment to recognise another of Lachie’s hero’s, Ryan Campbell. Recently Ryan was involved in an unfortunate aviation accident, and remains in hospital recovering. Ryan has been a friend to Lachie, an inspiration and I wish him a speedy recovery.

Lachie anI often take time out to chat, and as he evalua
ted the past year I asked him in all sincerity if he felt he was ready for his 18th year, marked as one to achieve high goals, manage risks and time and many other challenges. He was unwavering in his assurance to me that he had contemplated this year a lot and was ready, that it is time to press on with his journey and life goals.

This year when Lachie sets off around the world, he won’t just be telling people is key message, that youth and all people can achieve high goals, no matter how big, no matter your age or background, he’ll be exemplifying it.

Could Lachie become one of those pioneering leaders? I think he is well on the path, and the way he has conducted himself in recent years certainly indicates that.

Go well Lachie, my son; welcome to your 18th year, I am proud of you and I look forward to supporting the man you have become.

Dad x