What Kind of
Pilot Are You?
question on the life insurance
application asked "Have you ever
made or intend to make aerial flights
other than as a passenger?" Easy
answer to that one.
goes on. "Over what areas are most
was discussing the topic with my
financial advisor one day. He also deals
in some creative ways to insure yourself,
something I'd been avoiding for years.
kind of a question is that?" I was
being totally serious.
just shrugged. No help there. He's not a
that day after mulling it over, I filled
in the blank. " Over flat land with
lots of landing places" . That
should make them think I'm a safe risk.
wasn' t kidding. That's where I actually
fly, as much as possible anyway. Maybe
it's just as we get older we become more
aware of our health and mortality. The
days of brash attitudes and adventures
are gone. Life becomes serious. We take
fewer risks. Life insurance companies
have been times when I'd have preferred
to be on the ground rather than flying.
Once, many years ago, I was on a VFR
flight from Vernon to Vancouver when
conditions around Hope socked in. Having
already spent one night on the lumpy
couch at Merritt, it seemed important to
me at the time to get back. Descending to
about 2500 feet, I was still in cloud
more than out of it for quite some time.
This was before the days of GPS becoming
the preferred nav aid. Looking at the map
for some ideas, it became apparent that I
was on a radial from the Bellingham VOR
that passed directly through Abbotsford.
If I flew directly TO the VOR, the map
showed no mountains in the way. The Abby
ATIS was reporting only a broken ceiling.
So, it boiled down to keeping the
airplane flying straight and with the
right side up. Fortunately, in the months
prior to this incident, I had been doing
a lot of flying under the hood, and felt
confident in my ability to successfully
get through this. It was totally illegal
and not a really smart thing to be doing.
However after about 20 minutes, the solid
cloud gave way to scud, then eventually
to the broken conditions the ATIS had
a doubt, every pilot can look back on
antics and adventures that, in
retrospect, he wouldn't get into today.
It's all part of the experience and
learning process. For me, the days of
pressure to be somewhere, of someone else
dictating schedules, times and go/no-go
decisions, are gone. I fly strictly for
my recreation and pleasure. If it's too
hot, too cold, too windy, too cloudy or I
just don't feel like it, I don't go. I
was honest in my response to the
question, "Over what areas are most
flights made" . Yes, I'm totally
comfortable with flying over the ground
where there are plenty of landing spots.
ago, pilots like that seemed
unrealistically cautious. We even laughed
and joked about them behind their backs.
But I believe wisdom grows with age. It's
a natural process, one that I'd rather
not fight. If you're scoffing or laughing
at this right now, you're too young to
know better. We won't hold it against
kind of pilot are you? Does pushing the
weather, the gross weight, the short
runway, or the tight landing spot still
loom as a challenge? Or do situations
like that influence you toward the no-go
decision? There's a cliché around about
no old and bold pilots still alive. The
older I get, the more I see that as fact.
your flying is for recreation, it
shouldn't be anything other than pure fun
and excitement. Enjoy the exhilaration
and satisfaction of a trip that goes
without incident and is capped by a
perfect landing. A true professional
doesn't have to use his skill to get out
of a bad situation because he avoids
trouble in the first place. Leave the
risks to the men and women who are under
more pressure, who still have a boss who
tries to make their decisions for them.
insurance companies like that.