What I Learned From Theatre About Flying

This summer is exponentially less exciting than my last (as seen in this post here). I’m taking one course entitled Turbine Transition, which prepares students for crew environments. In addition to learning how to operate a King Air 200 simulator, I’m getting used to working with someone else in the cockpit with a shared responsibility.

Don’t get me wrong— my flight instructors have always assisted me in the cockpit with tasks, and there is a hint of crew resource management. But this environment is different in that each crew member has a definite set of tasks to complete in conjunction with the other.

Maybe I’m just eccentric, but I feel that every flight is a performance, just like being on stage. Although I’ve only had a few times on the stage myself, I remember what it was like to rehearse lines, practice delivery, and blocking. Flying is essentially the same— whether it’s a monologue (solo flight) or a large production (crews). We go through flows, a memorized pattern of tasks, and follow with a checklist to make sure we hit all the items. We synchronize with our cockpit partner like a fellow actor, making sure that he or she doesn’t miss lines. And when we do mess up, we improvise to get back on track— let’s just hope the audience is resilient and notices nothing.

The big performance, then, is the checkride. Stage fright barely begins to scratch the surface of what most feel when that day comes. It’s opening night of the rest of one’s career— a make or break flight if one receives bad reviews (or thrown, rotten tomatoes!). Depending on the level of preparation,

I could be suppressing some lofty dream of making it big in the spotlight, but the similarities between the two professions are eery and reek of ego.

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