The Inner Art of Airmanship

Positive Psychology & Expert Performance

For a long time psychologists studied the many ways humans have problems in order to help them up. More recently there has been a surge in studying the many ways humans succeed, acquire expert skills, and feel good about it. No longer just pop-psych mash, this is serious science leading to solid results we can all use. Here are a few of the worthwhile books in the growing field:

Today’s aerobatic pilots have available some of the finest engineered aerobatic airplanes the sport has ever known. Yes, sometimes these airplanes fail, but more often, it is the pilot flying the airplane who fails, and this failure is due to the lack of mental control. In terms of both precision and safety, aerobatics required absolute mental control by the pilot.

Excellent book that brings modern sports psychology to the demanding world of aerobatics. Mental training, neurology and energetics are all covered. Introduction by Patty Wagstaff.

The metaphor of ‘flow’ is one that many people have used to describe the sense of effortless action they feel in moments that stand out as the best in their lives. Athletes refer to it as ‘being in the zone,’ religious mystics as being in ‘ecstasy,’ artists and musicians as aesthetic rapture…. It is the full involvement of flow, rather than happiness that makes for excellence in life.

Mihaly is a professor who studies happiness at the University of Chicago, and has identified what he calls ‘flow experiences’ as a human high-point. This is a practical introduction to what has now become a well-researched area of human behavior.

Although talent feels and looks predestined, in fact we have a good deal of control over what skills we develop, and we each have more potential than we might ever presume to guess.

Very readable introduction to the powerful concept that deep play beats born talent. The author is an editor at Outside magazine, has written a couple of other good books, and so can communicate clearly and smoothly.





It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.

Ursula K. Le Guin


People often think fighter, race and airshow pilots are in it for the adrenaline, and that couldn't be farther from the truth. Adrenaline is a sign that things are out of control.

Patty Wagstaff


Carve out some time. Pick a date. Choose a place. Give your actions a time and a space to live.

Jack LaLanne


The greater the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is given to the less talented as a consolation prize.

Robert Hughes