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The Top 10 Mistakes Pilots Make and How to Avoid Them

Piloting an aircraft is a complex and challenging task that requires a high level of training, skill, and attention to detail. Despite this, even the most experienced pilots can make mistakes from time to time. In this article, we will discuss the top 10 mistakes that pilots often make and provide advice on how to avoid them.

1. Poor Planning:

One of the most common mistakes that pilots make is failing to properly plan their flight. This includes failing to properly research weather conditions, fuel requirements, and potential hazards along the flight path. To avoid this mistake, it is important to thoroughly research your flight plan, including current weather conditions, fuel requirements, and any potential hazards along your flight path. Remember that it is a legal requirement to check the NOTAMs and weather forecast before flight. And that doesn’t mean checking the weather on the TV the night before - it means a thorough pilot brief from the Met Office.

2. Ignoring Checklists:

Pilots rely on checklists to ensure that all systems and equipment are functioning properly before, during, and after a flight. Failing to follow these checklists can result in serious mistakes, such as forgetting to check fuel levels or failing to properly

Pilot performing a pre-flight inspection of a Cessna 172
A pilot should always use checklists

secure the aircraft before take-off. To avoid this mistake, it is important to always follow checklists, even when you are an experienced pilot. Remember that the purpose of a checklist is to make sure you don’t forget any of the checks, so why would you do it from memory? A pilot should also ensure that they do not rush their checks. This can lead to configuring the aircraft incorrectly or missing a vital problem or indication.

3. Poor Communication:

Effective communication between the pilot, passengers, and air traffic control is critical for a safe and successful flight. Failing to communicate properly can result in misunderstandings, miscommunications, and potentially dangerous situations. To avoid this mistake, it is important to always clearly communicate your intentions and to listen carefully to the communications of others.

4. Overconfidence:

Overconfidence can lead to a number of mistakes, including taking shortcuts or disregarding standard procedures. To avoid this mistake, it is important to remain humble and to always follow standard procedures, even when you are an experienced pilot.

Qualities of a good pilot:

  • High situational awareness

  • Good communication skills

  • Adaptable

  • Strong decision making skills

  • Awareness of own abilities and limitations

  • Resists peer pressure

  • Inspires confidence

  • Has ego under control

Qualities of a bad pilot:

  • Anti-authority

  • Impulsiveness

  • Invulnerability

  • Macho-complex

  • Resignation

  • complacency

5. Fatigue:

Fatigue is a major contributor to pilot errors, as it can lead to decreased cognitive abilities, slowed reaction times, and decreased alertness. To avoid this mistake, it is important to get enough rest before flying and to schedule regular breaks during long flights.

6. Distracted Flying:

Distracted flying is a major problem for pilots, as it can lead to a loss of situational awareness and decreased reaction times.

Pilot using mobile phone in flight to navigate
Don't allow electronic devices to distract you from flying

To avoid this mistake, it is important to minimise distractions, such as using your mobile phone or other personal devices, during flight. Of course, many personal devices are also used for flight planning and navigational purposes - this is an acceptable use!

Other causes of distractions:

Personal Issues

Personal problems, such as stress, illness, relationship problems, or financial difficulties, can also affect a pilot's focus and attention while flying.

Technical Problems

Pilots must be able to quickly diagnose and resolve technical problems that may arise during a flight. This can be a major distraction, especially if the problem is unexpected or difficult to resolve.

Outside Distractions

The environment inside the cockpit can also be a source of distraction. For example, loud or disruptive passengers, unexpected turbulence, or other external factors can divert a pilot's attention from flying the aircraft.


Pilots must also be aware of the impact that weather can have on their flight. Unexpected turbulence, icing conditions, or other weather-related distractions can affect a pilot's ability to focus and fly the aircraft safely.

7. Improper Maintenance:

Ensuring that your aircraft is properly maintained is critical for a safe and successful flight. Failing to properly maintain your aircraft can result in equipment malfunctions, decreased performance, and increased risk of accidents. This is especially relevant to pilots who are flying non-part-21 aircraft such as microlights and LAA aeroplanes where maintenance is almost entirely the owner’s responsibility. To avoid this mistake, it is important to regularly maintain and inspect your aircraft, following manufacturer recommendations and guidelines.

8. Incorrect Fuel Management:

Managing fuel levels correctly is critical for a safe and successful flight. Failing to properly manage fuel levels can result in running out of fuel, which can lead to engine failure and forced landings. Many accidents, incidents and embarrassing moments have been caused by running out of fuel. To avoid this mistake, it is important to regularly monitor fuel levels and to calculate fuel requirements based on the conditions of your flight. Oh - and don’t forget to switch tanks at the appropriate time.

9. Improper Navigation:

Navigating an aircraft correctly is critical for a safe and successful flight. Failing to navigate correctly can result in deviations from your intended flight path, which can lead to loss of situational awareness and potentially getting lost or straying into controlled airspace. To avoid this mistake, it is important to regularly check your navigation instruments and to stay on course.

10. Inadequate Training:

Finally, inadequate training is a major contributor to pilot errors. Failing to receive adequate training can result in a lack of knowledge, skill, and experience, which can increase the risk of accidents. To avoid this mistake, it is important to receive regular training and to continue to develop your skills and knowledge as a pilot. This includes attending regular training sessions, participating in simulation exercises, and staying up to date with new industry developments and regulations. Additionally, it is important to never stop learning and to seek out opportunities for additional training and experience.

All of these factors are related to the Human Performance exam. Refer to our Online Ground School to review some of the methods employed to mitigate these situations.

Are you learning to fly? Whether you're training for your PPL, LAPL, Helicopter licence or NPPL Microlights, we have something amazing for you! Check out our practice exams and online ground school and make sure you pass the exams first time!


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