A Pilot's Perspective.

     By Barry Meek. 

September 2013   

Do the Wrong Thing, Learn a Lesson

A mistake is a valuable lesson, but only if there is a recognized lesson and something learned from it.  All pilots make mistakes, even the professionals who have been at the job many years.  But I think it’s safe to say, the longer we fly, the fewer mistakes we make, or at least those mistakes are not serious. 

A discussion of pilot mistakes would undoubtedly include:  doors and cowlings not secured, check list items omitted, an oil cap left off, gust locks left on the tail, and wheel chocks and tow bars still on the aircraft as it tries to taxi away from the hangar.  I will admit to a fuel cap left sitting on top of the wing beside the open tank.  Also, I’ve had the occasional departure with the carb heat ON.

The honest mistake is one where something is overlooked or forgotten on a one-time basis.  The driver who never speeds will at some point, find he’s going a bit too fast.  Distraction, or just day dreaming could be the cause.  But his mistake wasn’t intentional. Everyone makes honest mistakes sometimes.

When we’re driving our cars, there are traffic rules and laws.  Air traffic is governed by rules of the air.  Society as a whole has a set of rules, and if everyone were to disobey those rules, either intentionally or by honest mistake, there would be consequences.  I don’t necessarily agree with all of the regulations, but we do need some sort of order.

Rules of the air are usually enforced to a higher degree than the rules of the road.  For one thing, it’s easier to get caught if you break a rule in an airplane.  Every month we read about the enforcement actions, and the big fines or suspensions that go along with them.  Yes, there are plenty of enforcement actions in traffic too, but without question, more drivers get away with breaking the rules than pilots ever could.

In traffic, I know there are drivers out there who hate to be following me.  I drive the speed limit, I stop at stop signs, drive into the correct lane when entering a street, and yield to ambulances.  I slow down far in advance of the intersection with the red light, and many times avoid actually having to stop, as the light turns green just before I get to it.  So far, I’ve not had an insurance claim or a traffic ticket.

It’s the same when I fly.  And it’s even better, because a great majority of pilots are following the rules of the air and the directions from ATC.  It’s actually a wonderful environment up there for pilots like me.  Everyone is usually flying by the regulations.  

Many of the general rules of society that people ignore, have no consequences.  Some people get away with murder, literally.  But let’s not forget there are unwritten rules, like respect, consideration, courtesy, and forgiveness.  These are important to interpersonal relationships and promote harmony in a society.  Without them, we would go down the drain, and future generations would read about us in history books. 

I’ll be the first to state that some laws are simply ridiculous.  They’re born from knee-jerk reactions of politicians intent on appearing to be doing something useful.  Every year in the U.S. for example, something like 50,000 new laws go on the books.  That bears repeating.  Fifty thousand new laws.  Are these so necessary?  Do we need so many laws?   But rules of the air, for the most part, make pretty good sense.  I will go with most of them.  Quite frankly, it’s hard to think of any that shouldn’t be there.  I know there are pilots who have their pet peeves and some day I’ll write an entire article on the e-mails I get referring to them. 

 In the meantime, I will always enjoy flying into controlled airspace and airports.  The people in the towers are almost always helpful, even pleasant.  And most pilots in the area respect each other.  It would be pretty hard for air-rage to become a problem.  Who’s going to stop and step out of an airplane to punch a guy in the face for cutting him off in the circuit?  If we all fly with the spirit of co-operation, we’ll be fine.  

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