I was early to the interview and that meant there was a chance for a nap.
I desperately needed some short burst of sleep. I had a simulator evaluation at 1:00 pm and it was now 10:40 am and I only had a short drive from airport to hotel. Perfect. I’ll call and hope for early room entry.
“Happy Holidays from the Hampton Inn, this is Kayla.”
“Kayla… Hi… I’m early for my check in time, but is there a chance that I can get into my room early? The last name is Webster.”
As you read the accident report, try and accept the fact that a mere 22 years ago, pilots often did things that were questionable at best. To keep the job, to get your foot in the door, or to conform to norms in your company and culture you did silly stuff. Never mind the customized approach to that god forsaken airstrip that you’d been sent to, you’d succumb to things that, technically, may not have been on the up and up with the FARs.
What is even more striking is that all of this “off script” behavior was rarely the stuff that got you hurt. What killed my teachers, was a lack of simple risk mitigation, awareness, and plain old decision making that got the swiss cheese holes to line up. In aviation we recognize that it is a series of things that typically lead to an accident. Our job, to live and be safe, is to constantly be thinking the stacking of bad, vs. the stacking of good. (I wrote about this once upon a time for the turbine crowd here.)
This story is about the day I stopped flying, sometime in 2001, when enough of my mentors had died that I thought, at a minimum, I could take some time off to reflect. I should take a good luck at my own suspect judgement, sub-par skill set and poor choices in equipment, destinations and jobs to fly.
Mostly, it was time to give thanks for the large scoops of good luck that had fallen on me in years where I was doing the riskiest stuff.
Sometimes, in the frozen bays of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, your frozen runway might not last long. That area you landed on yesterday? Gone… overnight.
“I look out de window, and dare was de runway … gone.”
The only French Canadian in the village was called Patrick McKinnon, and he reported all matters flying conditions to visiting pilots.
And all the english speakers? They had french names, but didn’t speak french.
The Lessards, the Beaubiens and of course the LeBlancs would ask: “Can you read my mail? ”
“S’from de governmen’,” would be the explanation. As a visiting bi-lingual city person I had multiple uses. Fly the airplane and read the mail from Le Gouvernment du Québec. As an anglo, meeting people with french names who spoke with french accents who could not read french was an eye opener. Welcome to the Lower North Shore.
I’m near certain that umpteen zillion posts have written about this subject. Nevertheless, here I go with my addition to the pile.
How do you teach students to land safely, who didn’t know how to fly a mere 10 hours ago?
The answer, to me, is 100% about feel, energy management (à la glider teaching), looking, sensing and adjusting as necessary. A trap that I, and many of my colleagues, have fallen into is thinking that landing is something a student will embrace if they are given firm numbers, power settings, checkpoints etc. Any type of recipe that emphasizes standardization exclusively does two big disservices to the student:
Revolution is tough without that disruptive nugget. Not having that nugget has led Surfair to retreat into the conventional operation of what could have been a novel membership based system. I’ve followed them since their birth since I’m no stranger to the concept of moving Pilatus PC-12s around with people in them whilst attempting to make money. What was great about Surfair, is that they validated our own Grabajet aspirations that I had designed with my business partner.