”When procedures become habits”
Practice will make you a better pilot. Sure it will! But have you ever thought what’s going on your brain and you become better with practice? Why chair fly is so beneficial? Okay okay, we can see why, but let me first show you some neuroscience data in order to understand how your ”engine” (brain) works.
A bit of Neuroscience
Your brain consists of millions of neurons. A neuron is an electrically excitable cell that processes and transmits information through electrical and chemical signals. Neurons are connected to each other for the transfer of those signals. When you learn, neurons are connected and build neural pathways or axons. Their connection helps in data transmission between different areas of your brain that are going to get involved in the new task that you learn.
How you learn
For every activity of humans, from thoughts to motor movements, neural pathways are responsible for each one task that exists. For example practicing autorotations. The whole procedure of your respond in an autorotation is a brand new neural pathway in your brain. Your brain must put in balance your mind, eyes, hands, legs etc. All these are controlled via different areas of your brain and the connection between them is established via neural pathways. Think of it as the wiring in your airplane/helicopter.
Autorotation for a new helicopter pilot is difficult but for an experienced pilot has become a habit. Why experienced pilots, have it as a habit?
Now, where the magic happens:
Since its birth, the neural pathway has the ability to grow bigger. As neuroscientists had found, neurons that trigger together are wiring together as a collective and as you practice this new task, the neural pathway becomes more solid.
When the brain understands that this pathway(axon) is triggered often, commands a better and better shield and insulation of it. An ”upgrade”. As you can see in the above picture, the gray matter is the brain’s procedure for strengthening the pathway/axon and it is called myelination. These pathways become a default behavior, a default respond. You don’t think about it. Your brain knows how to respond and uses the most solid pathways for this job.
The more solid by myelination the pathway, the faster it triggers. Solid pathways can be 300 times faster. So as you learn and practicing a new task again and again, you are strengthening your pathways. You become more efficient. Then the task becomes a habit. You love to see an experienced pilot performing something he has as a habit, ie an excellent landing.
Try to cross your arms in front of your chest. It seems that you can do it faster and better always with the same hand above the other. Your brain has built a solid pathway for this since you were a child and this is what can always trigger fast when you need it.
Where the best part lies:
Neural pathways can be strengthened by visualization of this task. Scientists had found that when you visualize the task, the brain responds up to 50% like it is actually performing the task. This means you help myelination up to 50%, by visualization of this task. Your flying skills are becoming even better.
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