Hazardous Attitudes and the Most Difficult Part of Flying

Let me set the scene for you;

It’s a beautiful evening in the midwest. About an hour until sundown, about 65 degrees outside, the birds are singing, life is good. Oh, and also about a 20 knot wind out of the north.

I had just arrived at a local airport for a checkout in a Piper Warrior that I was interested in renting. The instructor was an older gentleman, probably in his mid sixties, fairly tall and laid back in manner. I greeted him, and we went inside to talk a bit about the aircraft before going out to preflight. I had some fairly basic questions about limitations, weights, etc. but he was a bit distracted by the television, and didn’t answer too many of my questions.

Eventually we made our way out to the airplane, which looked nice from a distance, but started to show its age once you got closer. I had to run to my car for a moment, and by the time I got back, he told me that he had finished the preflight, I can take a look but don’t worry about a few things, after which he proceeded to list about 5 squawks which, while not required legally, were still significant.

Upon moving into the interior of the aircraft, I noticed that none of the inoperative equipment was disabled nor marked as such, and additionally upon obtaining the weather, realized that the headwind runway was closed, and we would be both taking off and landing with a direct crosswind of nearly 20 knots (which is above the Warrior’s max demonstrated crosswind of 17 knots). I mentioned this to the instructor, who replied with “don’t worry, demonstrated crosswind limits are only for new pilots.”

There may be some other pilots reading this who have also encountered situations similar to this, and had to make a decision of whether to fly or not. It can be highly difficult when we come face to face with these problems, to put aside our pride and our need to show that we’re capable, especially when flying with a more senior pilot, and say no, this isn’t a situation I want to be involved in. The truth is though, at the end of the day, being capable of making the choice to say no, we’re staying on the ground is what separates a good pilot from a safe pilot.

Sitting here now, I’m okay with not being checked out in the airplane, and I’m glad I didn’t make that flight. Even though we probably would have been fine, it was better to practice saying no to dangerous situations, and I believe that it made me a better pilot that day to say no than it would have to fly that airplane.

Aviation’s Hazardous Attitudes

Anti-Authority: “Don’t tell me what to do!”

Impulsivity: “Let’s get it done with quickly.”

Invulnerability: “It won’t happen to me!!”

Macho: “I can do it anyway.”

Resignation: “What’s the use of trying.”

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