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Zen and the Art of Being a Pilot

Overview of NEW BOOK!

The aviation community is lacking a voice, a Yoda to pass on the wisdom of becoming a pilot. Zen and the Art of Being a Pilot is a penetrating examination of how a person becomes a pilot. The lessons learned here apply to everyone, not just pilots.


Aviation is the backdrop, but stories of growth, discovery and triumph are the common thread that hold us all together. This is the first of several inspirational narrative non fiction books where Erika will address and highlight those who have reached the Zen of their industry.


Being a pilot is not just about flying airplanes. Being a pilot is about living a philosophy that prepares you for moments in the air when your reaction is the difference between life and death. There will always be those pilots who simply survive yet never thrive, but there are also pilots that continually absorb the world around them that strive to become Zen Pilots. The Zen Pilot will flourish and find their happy place even when the worst happens. This concept of insight has been practiced for almost two thousand years and is the original “situational awareness.”


Every emergency, both simulated and real, have better outcomes if pilots are able to open up their field of input to receive all the information coming in – which is contrary to natural human instinct. In stressful situations, human beings narrow their focus and often block out other important information which gives them a tunnel vision of the situation – much like sticking your head up where the sun doesn’t shine. It’s dark and focused, but you are only seeing one beam of light. 


The Zen Pilot learns to take a deep breath before reacting which allows the tunnel to open, letting in more light, which triggers the proper sequence to begin: Fly the airplane. Silence the alarm. Let the information in, understand, and then react. It can be done in the time it takes to cycle a deep breath. Breathe in as you take in the information; breathe out as you start your reaction. This is your pilot Zen sequence. You should do this for all aspects of your life, not just in an emergency. Before you ever walk out to your airplane, start your preflight or hit the starter, consciously take a deep breath, and then begin.


If you are in aviation long enough, you will have moments of terror when all your training instinctually guides your brain to do the right thing, even if you could never imagine the situation. A culmination of input and training make the safe choice reaction for you. In the moment, Zen Pilots do not shutdown their thought process in the reaction to fear. This doesn’t mean they are not afraid, it means they don’t have time at that moment because they are internally trained to draw in all the information then react. Fear is not in their sequence. 


When they are on the ground or when the emergency is over, that’s when they allow the adrenaline to course through their body as their mind reviews how close they came to not being a pilot any more. Having this ability to absorb and process information isn’t just for the cockpit and it can’t stop once you drive away from the airport. A Zen Pilot must achieve situational awareness in all aspects of their lives.


Simply living a life where you consciously absorb the environment around you will reflexively make you a better pilot. Being present in the moment takes effort. You must step your mind up one level from seeing to observing. Notice the nuances. After a while, it becomes reflexive so as you read the METAR that says visibility less than a mile with blowing snow, you breathe in the information and then breathe out the pressure to be at the meeting on time. Zen Pilots know it’s not as important as being alive. They notice the little things like the vibration in the throttle quadrant that wasn’t there yesterday. They notice that their copilot didn’t get enough sleep last night so maybe a little more diligence with CRM is on the agenda today. 


Zen Pilots will acknowledge their spouse is having a bad day – and they’ll also know there is nothing they can do about it except listen. Absorb, understand and not react is a learned talent. They know they don’t have all the right answers so they don’t attempt to make one up. Most importantly, the Zen Pilot will know how to look their boss in the eye, smile, and say “no” if it’s not good enough to go. 


This book will teach you by showing you. Through a broad range of aviation stories, from the humorous to the tragic, you will learn how to find your own Zen in whatever it is you are doing.



What's Going on in Aviation

A Chick in the Cockpit

In the high stakes, ego-driven world of aviation, this is an extraordinary bestselling true story about how a level headed woman with an aviation addiction finds herself in jail, her baby ripped from her arms, her piloting career taken away and every feasible exit leads to a very dark place...

Zen and the Art of Being a Pilot

New Book Coming SOON! 

Zen Pilots begin at the end. They see the desired outcome first, then assemble the flight path to the destination. 

To “pilot” an airplane means challenging every weakness of being human. Aviation is unforgiving and accidents seek the path of least resistance. 

Zen pilots resist... 


  

Keynote Speaker

Erika Armstrong has 350,000 aviation cult followers. 

She would love to geek out with your group. Her presentation topics cover a myriad of issues and she will develop a presentation for your audience but at its core, she will teach you how to think like a pilot...

Advanced Aircrew Academy

Erika is the Director of Instructional Design at Advanced Aircrew Academy. 

She collaborates with Part 91 and/or 135 flight departments and designs an eLearning curriculum customized for the type of flying you do...for half the cost of the competition! 

Your POI and/or ARG/US, Wyvern and SMS auditor will love it...

Metropolitan State University

Yes, Roadrunners can fly. 

Erika is an Aviation Professor and you can find her teaching Aircraft Systems and Propulsion, Instrument and Aviation Fundamentals. 

Her specialty is Part 121 and 135 operations and introducing aviation to the next generation and fixing the pilot shortage one student at a time.

Professional Pilot Columnist

Erika has been pursued by several journalist platforms to proved advanced research and education for mass media consumption. 

Her aviation articles can be found in several national platforms including Flying.com, Plane & Pilot, Disciples of Flight, NYC Aviation, Contrails, Colorado Serenity, Business Insider and LinkedIn pulse.

About Being a Chick

Three Chicks in the B727 cockpit!

Only 5% of ATP pilots are women. I'm here to change the perception of what it means to be a pilot.

By Sharing Stories

The pilot shortage is real so my goal is to reignite the true spirit of aviation.