Posts about pilot skills, knowledge, and judgment
"Throttle slightly open; master on; fuel pump on; mixture rich; watch for fuel flow; mixture lean; brakes on…"
I paused and took a breath to focus my mind. "OK, let's see if I remember how to fly this thing," I thought to myself as I turned the key to start the Arrow's IO-360. This would be my first flight in almost two months and I felt a little rusty.
I gazed down at the golden, rolling hills beneath me illuminated by the warm, raking light of early morning. Visibility was unlimited in the cool, clear, California Winter air, and the view from the glider's big bubble canopy was breathtaking. My eyes swept the horizon, taking it all in. Then out of the corner of my eye I noticed the back seat. It was empty! A jolt of adrenaline brought me to attention. I was all by myself, and in less than two minutes, I had to land this thing!
There's an old, sardonic saying: "When all else fails, lower your standards!"
This isn't one you hear often in aviation. We have high standards and we're proud of them! As pilots we're always striving to fly as well and as skillfully as we can. And as passengers, we certainly don't want our flight crew lowering their standards! The minimum standards for various pilot certificates and ratings are spelled out in the Practical Test Standards published by the FAA, but most of us are taught to strive for better.
It had been weeks since I'd flown. Between work commitments and urgent home repairs, I had been spread pretty thin. Finally I found a few fair-weather, daylight hours to spare, and I felt rested—and the Arrow was available!
"Just what do you think you're doing?! Who do you think you are?!"
I think every child in every English-speaking country has heard these words at one time or another. I've always found them rather silly. They imply that if you were somebody else, somebody special, you could get away with what you're doing—but you're not! The very idea runs counter to our American ideals of democracy and egalitarianism. "Who you are" isn't supposed to matter. It's what you do that counts.