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YOU BE THE BOSSMAN! Being Aggressive in Flying


     I started flying at a young age. My father acted as not only my parent but as my flight instructor, too. It was a great experience having father-son time centered around flying. Looking back, I laugh because for some unknown reason we didn't have such a great experience when it came to my father teaching me to drive a car. But I digress.

    One of the important lessons I learned was to be aggressive at certain times while flying, particularly in high winds and turbulence. I know the word “aggressive” brings up negative connotations such as, “aggressive driver,” but for our purposes I mean it in the most positive sense of the word. In my mind, being aggressive as a pilot means reacting effectively to situations as they arise. In our example this means that the pilot is compensating for all the slings and arrows that Mother Nature throws at you.

     Have you ever had that feeling in an aircraft of being a little out of control? For example, you are flying into an airport that is reporting high winds with a significant gust factor and a sprinkling of wind shear. The aircraft seems to be demon-possessed as it kicks from side-to-side, up-and-down. The airspeed indicator fluctuates wildly as you try to wrestle the aircraft down for some semblance of a landing. If you can ever get on the ground in one piece this will be one day you are thankful to be out of the sky. Fortunately, you hired a flight instructor for the day because the winds were a little more than you were comfortable with and the meeting you were enroute to was important.

     I will give you the same important lesson my father gave me about reacting to wind and turbulence effectively.

     My father liked to relay stories from his experience learning to fly and on turbulent days would talk about an instructor he had in California that would say, “You be  Bossman!” Forgive me for not being grammatically correct, but his instructor's native tongue was not English and his comment came out somewhat butchered. I never forgot this story because the deeper meaning that his instructor was trying to get across to him, and my father to me, was that you have to be aggressive in high winds and turbulence. I personally feel that the recent spike in take-off and landing accidents can be traced back to a lack of aggressive reaction and electing to fly when the winds exceed the aircraft manufacturer’s limitations.

     Reacting to winds and turbulence should come second nature to a pilot. If winds yaw you to the right, kick left rudder. If the nose descends, pull the yoke back and consider bringing in some power.* Having a flight instructor in the right seat can help pilots to extend their tolerance to wind and turbulence. I like to use the analogy of having a “spotter” during weight lifting. The spotter is not only there for safety but to help the weight lifter achieve larger lifting capacity over time by going to maximum effort and sometimes failure.

     My challenge is to encourage you to get out on the next windy day and work with a flight instructor to increase your “wind tolerance.”

About the author:

TC Freemanhas been flying since he was a teenager and is now an aviation speaker and author. Being employed as an Aviation Safety Specialist for state government, he has a passion for spreading the thrill of flying just for the fun of it via the website,


* There is some dialog among flight instructors with respect to pilots encountering turbulence that can damage the aircraft. Contrary to the training standard of “staying on altitude, staying on heading,” some flight instructors condone not overstressing the aircraft by allowing deviation in altitude. This is a subject that pilots have to judge for themselves on a case-by-case basis.

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