"One of my pilot friends said he is always looking for emergency landing sites as he's flying along in cruise, just in case something happens. Seems like a lot of energy spent on something that is unlikely to happen at any given moment. What do you think?"
- Henry S.
"Well, a good airman spends a lot of time thinking about What if... and as we're in cruise you should be doing the same thing. You should be thinking about... What would I do right now if this engine failed? Where would I land?
Take a look around. Select a field; practice selecting the fields. Do you really know which way the wind is blowing? So practice those things. Think about an alternator failure. Think about a loss of oil pressure.
Just review mentally what you would do, and that way you'll be better ready if you ever have one of those issues to deal with.
Another good airman technique is to maintain situational awareness with a sectional chart. It's so easy to just push the direct button on the GPS nowadays, and watch the numbers count down. But if you have an emergency, that's not going to be very helpful. So I keep that sectional chart out (on my iPad) and I practice my map reading.
One of the things you can do to enhance your map-reading skills is finding those little private strips. They're really hard to find. And they get you really looking at the map and really looking at the terrain. And who knows - having found them, you might actually use one of them someday."