April 12, 2009
Have you ever noticed that when you ride in a cab you never wear a seatbelt? Why is this? Do we blindly trust that fact that if the driver does this for a living we should trust their skills? Independent of all the other miserable drivers on the road?
Are you the same way in the air? Are you willing to climb into the cockpit of anyone's plane just to log a few hours or share the cost of flying? Or do you take greater precautions in the sky? I have noticed that I take flying much more seriously than land-based activities. Not to say I live recklessly when fully weighted down by gravity, just that I realize the inherent dangers of flying and was trained early on to respect the airplane and those flying around me. I have found, right or wrong, I have strict standards for those I choose to fly with. I realize that as a relatively new pilot, I still have much I can learn from fellow pilots but realize the habits I could learn can be both positive and negative.
I receive frequent invitations to go flying. I admit to not thinking twice when it is an invitation from the trained pilots of Lima Lima, Aero Shell, or Bill Leff and his T-6 Texan. I might jump at the opportunity to fly with them because I have seen their skill firsthand, or just because I would do nearly anything to fly the T-6 Texan or T-34. However, when I receive an invite from someone I have just met I am more skeptical. I have not seen their logbook to see their flying experiences, frequency of hours, etc. How do I know they believe in the same standards of safety that I do? How do I know their flying history?
Let's all admit it. We have met pilots that we know we would never fly with, let alone choose to share airspace with. I was especially concerned when I joined a safety seminar put on by the air traffic controllers at my home airport a few weeks back and they were asking simple questions like "Can you explain what the hold short line is used for?" and pilots (not students, licensed pilots) were answering the question wrong.
Earlier this week a person I met through the Chicago Aviation Meetup Group was looking for some people to join him on a flight to deliver a dog from Chicago to its new home in Southern Indiana. It sounded like a great way to enjoy a few hours in the sky while helping out a worthy cause. I had a scheduling conflict but even if I had not, I wonder if I would have flown along for fear that I would show up to learn the pilot had a lower standard of safety than I was comfortable with or lacked the experience I would want in the pilot-in-command. Worse yet, what if I did not learn about their lack of concern for safety until we were airborne?
Last night I had the opportunity to meet the pilot in question in person. Within a few minutes of speaking with him I immediately realized this pilot was one who knew the responsibility bestowed on pilots and took flying seriously. We not only talked about each other's flying experiences but I also learned about his knowledge of his plane. I realized that I would happily fly with him in the future. I realize now when an opportunity arises a quick phone call or in person chat will likely provide me the clarity I need to determine whether I want to share responsibilities of flying a plane with a fellow pilot.
How do you decide with whom you will fly?