Getting the Feel for the Airplane

by Dallas Mount


I believe everything relates to flying airplanes. Those who know me know that I have a passion for aviation. I like all things that fly and spend most of my free time thinking about flying, actually flying, or working on airplanes. Therefore, it only makes sense that many of my analogies will tie back to aviation. Recently I was thinking about ranchers and the development of their business management skills.  

Many of the typical educational programs ranchers attend offer a list of suggested actions ranchers should take. This sets people up with the expectation that when they attend a Ranching for Profit School we will do the same. Often people come looking for a recipe. What breed of animals should we raise? When should we calve? How long should graze periods and recovery periods be for my pastures? What should we feed and when? The list goes on. They get a bit frustrated when we tell them there isn’t a magic recipe to running a ranch. There are time tested principles you can apply, but not a recipe. You need to learn to develop your observation skills and adapt.

It makes me think of a new student pilot getting behind the controls for the first time. All the strange looking gauges, knobs, levers and buttons can be overwhelming. “Alright… tell me how to fly this thing!” the student pilot asks their instructor with both fear and excitement in their voice. The instructor responds “Push in the throttle a bit to get us moving…. A bit more…. More… Too much! Pull it back out!” shouts the instructor as the student taxis down the taxiway weaving side to side. When it comes time to learn to land the plane the instructor tells the student to follow a strict routine of do this at this point, be at this airspeed right here, pull flaps here, be lined up for centerline at least this far out. They give the student a recipe to follow because the student can’t really feel the plane yet.  

I remember being a low-time pilot and flying with a much more experienced pilot. I was doing all the things my instructor taught me. Flying a perfect traffic pattern and getting lined up way out. This pilot was a bush pilot from Alaska and told me I needed to be able to just feel the plane and not be so fixated on the gauges. Be able to adapt to changing conditions during landing, fly short approaches and make the airplane do what I want. “Let the plane talk to you through your hands and the seat of your pants.” This advice was great. It was exactly what I needed at that stage in my flying, but it would have been useless advice for me when I was a student pilot. Back then I needed strict guidelines to get me started and keep me out of danger but now I need to develop instincts and feel.  

When people attend a Ranching for Profit School they are usually past the “student pilot” phase.  Our school’s curriculum is built on time tested principles that should be the framework inside which you develop your “feel for it” and operate your business. When you come to a Ranching for Profit School you will not be handed a recipe for a profitable ranch. Instead we teach you principles that apply to any business regardless of scale or what you grow/raise. It is the learning of how to make shifts as markets and weather change, and the creative adaptation that makes ag business exciting and enjoyable. Once you have the basics of mechanics of knobs and levers, we’d love to help take you and your business to the next level!

4 Responses to “Getting the Feel for the Airplane”

May 08, 2024 at 7:02 am, Jonathan Kilpatrick said:

Love this analogy! Follow the principles and let the principles dictate your practices.


May 08, 2024 at 8:18 am, Gregg Simonds said:

Will you fly me around, literally


May 08, 2024 at 10:05 am, jphaskell said:

Great stuff, reminds me of Tom Dorances description of how to teach someone to use a bulldozer. You can’t always be in their ear telling them what to do. Fairly soon, they just need to figure out the feel of it. Consequences may be a bit higher off the ground than on, but the process is basically the same. Although many of your students are past the beginner phase, learning new things can be very uncomfortable and require us to become a beginner again to develop a “new” feel.


May 08, 2024 at 6:36 pm, India Mount said:

Wonderful analogy – applies to a good life too.



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