There are many different definitions of Airmanship, most points in the same direction. I prefer: “The Art of Operating an Aircraft”. So what is art? Let´s look at the following definition: “An art is mastering something out of the ordinary”. To bring the dream of Leonardo DaVinci, the master of all masters, to reality, must be an art. It does not however fit in the category of finer arts, like creating paintings, sculptures, music, literature, etc.. It is related to performance based arts, where the creators work is presented by actors, dancers or athletes, who all do things not commonly mastered.
Performance based behavior is the essence of Airmanship because it is the result that counts, it is simply doing the right things, in the right order at the right time which matters. This to ensure the desired outcome of the event, each and every time. – Seamanship is it´s counterpart on the sea, which might help understanding what airmanship is. There is however an essential difference between the two which needs to be understood, which is: Man can learn to swim, but never learn to fly.
Airmanship has normally a foreword, which describes the quality of the art. It is either “good”, “poor”, “excellent” or even “piss poor”. It is a pretty obvious ranking from the worst to the best of performance. However, it might have a different meaning according to the objectives or mission of the flight. A mission in a war might be so crucial that the pilot might suffer a high risk of a damaged aircraft and injury or death. Many of our war heroes has demonstrated excellent airmanship while sacrificing their life. In civil commercial aviation safety is always the first priority, as it also should be in non commercial civil aviation.
Another and shorter definition of Airmanship is: The Will and Skill to Operate an Aircraft. These 2 parameters are the visible parts and are based on knowledge and insight which is gained through proper training and experience. It is still what you do that matters. Airmanship is simply measured by “doing the right things, all the time, every time”!