Mentor Mortis (Part 1 of 3)

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.

Continue reading Mentor Mortis (Part 1 of 3)

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Some new or aspiring pilots know what they want: Big tires, a tailwheel and being “off airport” just as much as “on airport.”  If you land on the water, or are a helicopter, you’ll get used to the tower saying “land at your own risk.”  This is music to the ears of those who chose a slightly unconventional learning path.

What do you seek? (In your aviation dreams?)

The cookie cutter flight school program? Or do you value critical skills early on that are often not taught until you fly your first seaplane or gravel bar landing tundra tired Super Cub?

It wasn’t too long ago that we all learned to fly a tail dragger in a field somewhere near a bigger airport.  Most also turned out to be really good pilots for the simple reason that they had to use their feet (i.e. rudder) and an intuitive connection and approach to much of their flying.  Just ask Sully.

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