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Airmanship – The Lost Art

By Mike Davenport, EAA 89102, Langley, British Columbia

June 2020 – It was a beautiful fall morning, the first clear calm day in weeks here on the left coast. Just made for flying — not to go anywhere but just to get back in the air for the first time in weeks for the pure joy of flying, the rate of climb enhanced by that thick air that is only available in the winter. I was headed for pattern height so fast the tower restricted me because I’m sure they thought I’d bust it. A short flight to a nearby grass strip and a perfect three point landing — no one ever sees those — followed by coffee and good conversation with old friends and a couple of new ones. The flight home took twice as long only because I could. Not a bump in the air. Right base to final and a wheel landing on the numbers. I am so good (and modest) when no one is looking.

The tower cleared me back to the hangar and the first taxiway was blocked. No problem, I’m not going that way anyway. The next turn was mine. This too was blocked. Hmm, try the next one, guess what – blocked. On to the fourth one, aaargh also blocked! Only one left, whew, this one is clear. Finally able to get to my hangar but it takes almost as long to get there as it did to fly to the grass field.


Well perhaps it wasn't this bad!

I put the airplane away, cleaned a few oil drips and updated the logs, all the time muttering to myself about “airmanship — the lost art.” Finally it was time to go home and would you believe it, “my” taxiway is still blocked. Really, how long does it take?

That got me thinking about a column on consideration or courtesy as applied to the airport and 770 words later, here it is.

When in doubt, Google it. That's my default position on information. I needed to know the definition of airmanship.

Airmanship is defined by Wikipedia as: Skill and knowledge as applied to aerial navigation. It is expanded to cover a broad range of desirable behaviours and abilities. It is not limited to skill and technique but is also a measure of a pilot’s awareness of the aircraft and the environment in which it operates and of his or her own capabilities.

My interest at the moment was on the ground operating environment, specifically. Though less important to life and limb than flight ops, it is most important to others also operating in the ground environment.

Most pilots are aware of their own and others' airmanship qualities by their behaviour on the ground as they rarely see examples in the air. A pilot’s great flying skills are most often quoted as indicators of airmanship while his aircraft ground handling skills don’t get the same attention. For that reason, I developed the following list, with apologies to the writer of Exodus 20.


  1. Thou shalt pre-flight thine aircraft in the hangar or tie down, not on the taxiway.
  2. Thou shalt not leave thine aircraft unattended on or blocking the taxiway.
  3. Thou shalt not start engines while in the tie down.
  4. Thou shalt push thine aircraft from thy tie down into the taxiway prior to engine start.
  5. Thou shalt ensure that there is nothing behind that shall get blown over or damaged by thy prop wash.
  6. Thou shalt not leave thine aircraft unattended at the fuel pumps after refueling. Others may have needs.
  7. Thou shalt make all radio calls brief and to the point. Others may wish to speak.
  8. Thou shalt park thine automobile clear of the taxiway at all times for fear that my wingtip scratch thy roof.
  9. Thou shalt keep thy taxi speeds to no more than a walk. (Unless thou needest the bathroom really urgently. — Ed)
  10. Thou shalt file thy flight plan by phone, not by radio while blocking the taxiway.

What annoys you most? Are you guilty of any of these? I have been, but I promise to repent. Do you have favourite(s) to add to the list?

My pet peeves are several of those listed above; specifically those pilots who choose to blast out of a parking spot without a care for what chaos they may be creating behind them. But highest on my list are those who push their aircraft out of a hangar or tie down and then proceed to do an extended walk around (or go for coffee) all the while blocking said taxiway from all other use.

It was still a great day for flying – just not so much for parking.

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