But for those without easy access to a simulator, there are ways you can better prepare yourself for a return to flight: think ahead, visualize the cockpit layout, the procedural flows, do some chair-flying like we did back in flight school, read the flight crew operating manual and the company manual. Take the training scenarios outlined above: all can be visualized and the processes thought through. You will be surprised how effective this simple technique can be.
Remember too that your fellow pilots will likely be in the same position; to avoid the holes in the Swiss cheese beginning to line up, it is up to you to be the final line of defence in safety terms.
Equally, some consideration should be given to everyone’s mental state. Airlines everywhere seem perched on the precipice – either facing insolvency or planning to downsize drastically – creating widespread fears over job security. My employer has requested that all its pilots take unpaid leave in an effort to help with the financial situation, which is unsettling too.
It affects everyone to a certain extent, myself included. I try to shut off thinking about these things when I leave home, but unlike some personal issues, it is inevitable that it will be on your mind when you go to work. Having said that, it is also equally paramount that you find a way to get rid of these anxious thoughts while operating your flight to ensure safety is not compromised.
While an airline may not be the direct cause of stress – in many cases they are passengers in this like the rest of us – they should still make the appropriate support available to their pilots.
Ultimately, the key to all this is preparation: being mentally prepared, being back in the loop, you free up invaluable brain capacity in case something unexpected happens during flight.
It is better to be slightly cautious and prepared as opposed to being overly optimistic about your capabilities, especially after an extended rest. You owe it for your own safety and for those around you.
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