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Professionals and Professionalism

I was enjoying my favorite form of relaxation, reclining at a small airport, viewing the sun setting in a grand showcase of blue sky and soft orange glow reflecting off wispy clouds. I lean against the chain link fence and watch the planes take their position on the runway. The pilots bring the power up to full throttle and the planes move slowly at first, gaining speed gradually. Within short order the airplane's nose is pointed towards the sky, as if asking the wind to assist the human engineered bird to fly. Slowly the plane separates from the ground and becomes a part of the sky above. I envision myself in the cockpit, enjoying the feeling of escaping the grasp of earth's gravity.

Watching planes during this lazy summer day, I notice a friend approaching me with one of his student pilots. His wide grin I interpreted as his shared joy in being at an airport. He gave me a friendly hello and strong handshake. Turning to his student he introduced me as a professional pilot flying for the airlines.

My friend and I agreed as to the beauty of the day, all the while relating how blessed we are in being able to enjoying the wonders of flight. After discussing different landing techniques, my friend and his student returned to their aircraft to finish their discussion. I began pondering my friends description of me as a professional, all the while hoping he further considered himself a professional. I then considered the question, "what is a professional?"


A person is normally referred to as professional if they are paid to perform a service. With that said, I have discovered there are many unprofessional people performing a service, and some very professional non professionals. It is usually easy to delineate the professional person by how he or she approaches their avocation and if they uphold the highest ethical and educational standards of that profession.

I feel we should all strive to be a professional, even if you are not being paid for our avocation. While flying an airplane there is a distinct difference between the group who consider flying their avocation and those that fly airplane solely for monetary gain. An avocation can be both a job and a hobby, but it is certainly the calling of the individual whether paid or paying for the pleasure to fly. I admire student pilots who try to be as professional as possible in their avocation of flying.

There are many ways to enhance your professionalism. Become a veracious collector of knowledge through reading, classes, and involvement in organizations promoting your profession. A professional is constantly learning. Most professional organizations produce magazines, newsletters, videos, classes, and books which are filled with educational material.

I recommend joining the Aircraft Owners and Pilot's Association, AOPA. They have two excellent magazines AOPA Pilot and AOPA Flight Training magazine. They also can help you find a mentor to assist you in your flight training by motivating and sharing your experiences. Another great organization is the Experimental Aircraft Association, EAA and their many divisions. If you really want to get motivated about the thrill of flight view their website.

As a flight instructor I highly recommend your joining the National Association of Flight Instructors, NAFI. This division of the Experimental Aircraft Association is a wonderful resource for every instructor both new and experienced. I have learned much from the newsletters and members of this organization.

After joining these organizations and continually challenging yourself to increase both your knowledge and skill, you will find people will begin considering you as an expert in your field. You probably will hear many refer to you as a professional, which you are.

For More Information:

Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association
Flight Training Magazine
National Association of Flight Instructors
The Experimental Aircraft Association

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