Experience makes a great teacher

When first learning to fly, I had a number of flight instructors. Most were inexperienced in the rigors of bush flying, having been kept on by the flight school to build their flight times up to some magic number or other imposed by the industry and the companies they wanted to work for. They were good for instilling the basics, though.

Basics are everything.

Beyond basics comes a knowledge required to survive in the harsh environment of the bush pilot. Fortunately, at just the right time in my training regimen, the flight school hired Ben. He was an old-time helicopter aviator who had been a part of the beginning of the piston helicopter era in Canada. He was British, although by then he had spent many years in Canada, and whenever we crossed the line to go beer drinking, he had me coach him in correct pronunciation for the appropriate phrases in answer to the questions at the border. I never failed him.

Nor did he ever fail me. In six thousand hours of helicopter flight time, his principles, guidance and flight instruction held up. He taught me much that I needed to know to survive in the harsh environment of the bush pilot. Over the years I acquired first-hand experience in bush, mountain, arctic and desert flight environments, but Ben’s initial training was the foundation for most of what I learned on-site.

When you start out flying, you have no experience and a whole lot of luck, and you hope to end up with a whole lot of experience before you run out of that luck.

Thanks to Ben Arnold, I made my own luck.

And yes, I was lucky too.

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