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What Makes a Good Fighter Pilot

…Charles nearly won the “stump the chump” challenge but I was feeling pretty good about my impromptu answers and made it through the remainder of the Q&A session with no further surprises. Later, reflecting on the question, I decided it would make an interesting Musing post but that a second opinion would be beneficial to ensure I wasn’t too far off the mark. For this I turned to a furtive Facebook group comprised of grizzled former fighter pilots. I naively thought it a valid question but based on the fact that most of the group’s posts are political rants and pin ups—I probably should have known better. To say the immediate responses were colorful would be a mild understatement and for the reader’s sake I will refrain from reiterating them here (you’re welcome). However, a few submissions were useful, such as one respondent who suggested the ‘good’ fighter pilot must possess the unending ability to accurately self-assess and make quick decisions. No question. Another response was "the ability to integrate, process, prioritize, and act on a lot of information," which I lump into my aforementioned SA category. Check. But two responses ultimately restored my faith in the group: one, the "determination to win irrespective of the odds or the enemy’s capabilities," was spot on and central to this whole exercise. In air warfare, you don’t get a trophy just for participating—you fight to win / fight to survive. The winner lives to fight another day; the loser not so much. This YouTube video is an excellent example. And finally, one respondent provided the succinct essence of what being a fighter pilot, particularly a ‘good’ one, is all about: "silent confidence — an evolved form of humility which embraces the idea you can kick ass, but will accept criticism." Take that, Hollywood.

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