Have You Ever Just "LOST IT" In An Airplane?
by 'Jim Trusty 2005
If you have ever "lost it" in an airplane, as a result did you
do something that was very unprofessional or just plain stupid? What did you use
for an excuse? Distracted? Lack of concentration or focus? Flying at night?
Instrument failure? Disorientation? Strange airport? Student? Different
aircraft? Co-pilot? Memory lapse? Alzheimers? Motivation Deficit Disorder (MDD)?
DUH? Medication, prescription/ otherwise? Or any other very good excuses for
what almost happened. Would you like to know what really happened and start
preparing now so that it never rears its ugly head again?
First and foremost, and as long as you are listed as the Pilot
in Command, it's your fault! Whatever it was, no matter how it happened or where
or why, it is your fault as the PIC.
And second, as long as you continue to be involved in aviation,
it will happen again! It has been explained to me that all humans make mistakes,
errors in judgment, and wrong assumptions, and that they will continue doing
this until they die. That might be true, but I really think we are able to
counteract some of this by proper training and preparation. Supposedly we are
trained professionals, highly skilled to fly an airplane, and as such we should
be held to a higher level of expertise than others. Let's see if we can at least
become better prepared for the next time than we were for the first. A clear
definition is not really needed, but you do need to feel secure in your own mind
that you can take control in any situation.
The biggest reason for most everything that happens to us in an
airplane is something that your instructor told you on the first flight - YOU
ARE BEHIND THE AIRPLANE. And it happens as we are on the way to the airport,
during taxi, takeoff, in flight, landing, and again on the way home. We fill
that peanut head with everything in the world for hours on end - news, family,
war, work, play - and then BOOM, let's go flying! We are actually NOT mentally
prepared for that challenge, but off we go anyway. Now all we need to do to
complete the circuit is to be just a little late, not enough to hurt anything
but enough to skip the checklist, the walk around, or the weather briefing for
both ends of the flight, and that sets us up to do something goofy.
Preoccupation can be deadly.
This article came to mind as I watched the latest RUNWAY SAFETY
DVD from the FAA and saw actual pilots, in tail draggers to big iron, drive
right through a HOLD, taxi to the wrong runway, and read back a clearance and
then do just the opposite.
I'm going to tell you something that you should already know.
Flying an airplane is not a walk in the park. It is hard work, it takes
concentration, it takes experience, and it takes YOU to be ready for that
flight. Don't be fooled when some PC (politically correct) people try to tell
you that what happened to you is because your mama spanked you as a child or
that you were mistreated in the Army or that your spouse doesn't understand you.
Believe me, it's not going to work if someone gets hurt or with whoever or
whatever you tore up, and it certainly is not going to fly as an excuse or
reason with the FAA or NTSB. Those organizations are looking first at pilot
error, and when that happens it leaves a trail a mile wide. So if something like
this does happen to you, be prepared for some legal trouble with them.
What can we do to stop this kind of misadventure from happening?
Drones, maybe? A three-person crew? Critical inspection before each flight by a
regulating agency? Mandatory recurrency every six months? A physical
every six months? Required attendance at safety seminars? I don't know.
I have seen fully trained, current, young, healthy, vibrant
pilots fly to their death 10 minutes after takeoff. What could have possibly
taken place during that time to change that person into a zombie? There's just
no easy answer.
I still put a lot of faith in continued training, safety
meetings, reading NTSB reports, identifying a problem and getting some help with
it, knowing the limits for you and your craft and staying within them, adding
something to your ticket, and always, always THINK! I wish I had that all
inclusive answer that would fit every one of us and every situation, but there
is none. As aviation gets smarter by the hour and pilots fail to realize that
something is missing from them personally, more accidents, incidents, mishaps
and crashes will occur.
The simple truth is that if we as the pilots of these airplanes
don't do something to slow down these flagrant violations that lead to accidents
and deaths, then some government agency will take over that task from us. They
will not find that magic answer or cure all but they will be able to add one
more stick to our load, and for most of us that is not a good thing.
Let's just sit down right now and have a little talk with
ourselves (although you might not want to mention that you do this on your next
FAA Medical exam). Let's make a promise or three that we will get back into a
routine that has proven itself to be safe for many other pilots and for a long
time. Let's arrive, leave, fly, land and return home safely by following the
prescribed methods that we spent years as pilots learning. Write down this last
statement and be safe: ALWAYS REMEMBER THAT ACCIDENTS ARE CAUSED AND ARE
Permission required to reprint this copyrighted article. (2005)
Jim Trusty, ATP/CFI, was named the FAA/Aviation Industry
National Flight Instructor of the Year for 1997, and the FAA Southern Region
Aviation Safety Counselor of the Year for 1995 and 2005. He still works
full-time as a Corporate Pilot/"Gold Seal" Flight & Ground Instructor/FAA
Aviation Safety Counselor/National Aviation Magazine Writer. You have been
reading his work since 1973 in publications worldwide