Solo Flow


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Having fond memories of your own solo flight is one of the unique gifts of learning to fly. Like all pilots, it’s a seminal point in your journey. It’s akin to walking through a door into a new world. A world in which you alone control your destiny. You have crossed a threshold; you are now a pilot.


In this modern world of distractions, flying solo, particularly your first solo, is one of the few things that drives you to a single focus. It takes you away from email, social media, text messages, and the like. It is the ultimate distraction free zone.


In Dr. Mihály Csíkszentmihályi’s book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, he outlines his theory that people are happiest when they are in a state of flow— a state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation. It is a state in which people are so involved that nothing else seems to matter. 


I just picked up this book, so I’m excited to learn more about this topic. 


Certainly your first solo puts you into “flow” in a way that few activities can. That’s why it is so unforgettable. Most of us have our first solo indelibly etched into our memory banks. It’s a powerful, life-changing event. 


I would also offer that the first time you fly a single-seat airplane it is equally stimulating. With no one to give you a checkout, it is almost like a first solo – albeit with more overall pilot experience. Again you are placed in a situation where you have to rely completely on yourself. 


The first flight on a newly built experimental airplane (done solo per the regulations) also falls into this category. Or maybe a first flight after a significant restoration or rebuild might also warrant this kind of intensity? 


These are just a few that I have experienced, there are many more that illicit this feeling which is best described as Flow.


A quick search of Flow yields Wikipedia’s definition which I thought particularly appropriate for this topic: “….the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does. ….flow is completely focused motivation. It is a single-minded immersion and represents perhaps the ultimate experience in harnessing the emotions in the service of performing and learning. In flow, the emotions are not just contained and channeled, but positive, energized, and aligned with the task at hand.  The hallmark of flow is a feeling of spontaneous joy, even rapture, while performing a task although flow is also described as a deep focus on nothing but the activity – not even oneself or one’s emotions.”

 Finding the Flow

This might seem a little voodoo-like for some, but you can’t deny that something is at play when you are operating around the extreme edges of human performance.


Caution! Flow can be addictive.


What better way to harness your inner potential then to join the ranks of pilots who all share this amazing experience. 


If you are already a pilot, I invite you to run up your intensity meter by stepping out of your comfort zone. You can do this by flying a new genre of aircraft, bigger or smaller, or going for a new certificate or rating that puts you back into the student mindset.


If you have instances where you feel you have been “in the Flow” share them in the comments below.


Flow safely!


For more on Flow:


By Brent Owens <click on my name to email me>


This is my humble contribution to the group post by the Blogging in Formation collection of authors.


Blogging in Formation

This post is part of the Blogging in Formation Series #blogformation, a monthly four day collaboration between eight aviation bloggers all discussing the same topic from their unique perspectives. Check out the other writers by clicking on their names:

April 1 – Karlene Petitt and Andrew Hartley 

April 2 – Rob Burgon and Chip Shanle

April 3 – Ron Rapp and Eric Auxier

April 4 – Brent Owens and Mark Berry


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