April 12, 2009
Who Do you Fly With?
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?
Posted by Todd McClamroch at April 12, 2009 8:24 PM
Personally, I fly with just about anybody that offers, but only after I've talked with them for a bit. The chat beforehand not only covers where we're flying and swapping stories on past flights or comparisons on the local area, but also gives me a feel for how to work with this person and what to watch for.
I have flown with a man who left me wanting to shoot his CFI - he was interested, thoughtful, and completely unaware of basics of common sense pattern flying. I have flown with a man I seriously think may have early onset Alzheimers. In both cases, I ended up spending a lot of the lesson "reviewing" things in the guise of learning about that model airplane, and in the latter, "helping him look things up so he was free to fly the airplane."
I have also flown with a man who winced and looked like he'd just accidentally kicked a puppy when the airplane, ah, arrived on the runway. He mournfully noted "got to remember she lands differently than the C-130", and I tactfully remained quiet while I took over the next landing for a thoughtful attempt to learn from that one, and give him time to get his aplomb back.
They're not perfect pilots, but they left the flight better than when they arrived, and we both were the happier for having gotten a chance to go flying and have a good time.
As an aside: whenever I ride with someone else, cabbie or friend, I always wear my seat belt.
Although I fly a lot myself, I get quite nervous flying when another pilot is in the left hand seat. I often find myself checking off my own mental checklist as they fly. It must be unnerving for them and I don't mean to do it in a mean way.
On another topic, what particularly struck me about your post was the thought: 'what would another pilot make of MY abilities.' In particular, I think there is a thing called the 'captain's persona' which is an attitude towards safety and passenger comfort. It's parallel to good pilot skills and good airmanship. It's really about making sure that passengers have a relaxed, comfortable and enjoyable time flying with me.
If I get a minute, I might blog about this some more but I'd be very interested to know what other pilots do to make sure that passengers have a good time. What is your 'captain's persona'?
As a CFII I've flown with my share of crazies. But I view flying with someone and signing off an endorsement as two totally different things. I have no problem telling people on flight reviews that we may need a bit more work and usually they're ok with that. When I sign someone's logbook I'm accepting a ton of liability! So I need to make sure they're going to be safe even if it takes a month to complete what should be a 2 hour flight review!
Great idea for a blog post..
I to have flown with quite a few crazies myself!
Including the "Alzheimer's pilot" mentioned in Matthew's comment.
I had one flight where I flew with an IFR rated pilot just out of flight school. I was PIC, when we taxied from our tie down spot he jammed on the brakes HARD. That got my attention. I asked "ok... What was that?" He told me he was "testing his brakes". I accepted that (knowing that CFI's often do the same). I than told him that I was PIC and if he were to take the controls it would be ONLY after I gave them to him using the "your airplane... My airplane" procedure. We taxied into position for the run-up and guess what.. He did it again! I confirmed that he understood. He apologized and told me it "was a habit".. Now for the flight (witch I seriously thought of canceling). We were coming in for our night landing. I was "slightly" to the left of center line (bad habit when looking at the PAPI lights at night) when out of the corner of my eye I see him reach for the yoke! This time I was firmer in my request! Followed by an explanation of the fact that if he saw that I was slightly to the left of center line or anything else he should have said something. The landing was super smooth and on center line. I have flow with some really good pilots "including the above mentioned ones". All have taught me something. The aging pilot introduced me to the world of IFR flying and taught me to relax in some really bad turbulence. The control freak taught me that passengers may notice something (and be a little alarmed) even though the situation may be under control. I could have let him know that I was well aware of my not so straight approach thereby setting his mind at ease. I love flying with other pilots and encourage others to do the same. If you see a pilot do something that you don't like "could be a bad habit" open your mouth. We will all benefit from it. You never know one day you may have a student pilot point out one of your bad habits. I just had a 70 hour pilot teach me something. Never stop learning and have fun. Safe flying!
Alzheimer's pilot from Matthew´s comment is really good..