KNOWING WHEN TO SAY "WHEN" - 18 July 2013
Sunrise at Navy Terminal - Midway Atoll, North Pacific
This will be a really short article. It's about being an instructor pilot and the responsibilities that go along with it. Let me cut to the chase: No matter what, when an instructor is flying with a student the instructor will always be responsible. No matter what the student does, no matter how good or bad the student is, no matter what, the instructor will always be responsible.
Excepting for flat-out criminal activity, I cannot imagine a situation in which a student should be held responsible for anything when there's an instructor assigned. Someone might say, "The instructor might not be at the controls." To which I'll say, "Why was he not at the controls?" Or, "The student did something totally unexpected and unforeseen." To which I'll say, "Was the instructor asleep at the wheel?" Perhaps the excuse might be, "The student is someone of some reputation and correcting them might cause some loss of stature." This leads me to wonder: does the owner of the aircraft care about the student's stature more than keeping his aircraft safe?
There is no excuse for the instructor. Ultimately, the only choice the instructor has is whether he's there doing his instructional duties or he's declined the responsibility and not there, i.e., not present on the flight. There are no other options.
There are lots of techniques associated with being an instructor pilot. But, all those techniques take a backseat to the ultimate instructor responsibility: keep things safe during instruction. There is no higher calling in flight instruction. There is no higher purpose. There is nothing else.
I'm wondering aloud if any of you have good instructor stories. I'm talking about stories where you were confronted with keeping things safe or pursuing other objectives. Here's one of mine:
I was an instructor in the F-15 when a major public event was about to occur at our base. There was a particularly distinguished and historically aggressive aviator who had flown with us before, but his best flying days were years behind. I was asked if I wanted to be this person's instructor pilot during the approaching event. There were obvious professional benefits to flying with the guy. But, when I was asked all I could think about was...
"How could I take control of the aircraft away from one of the most famous aviators in history and survive professionally?" I figured if a dangerous situation developed in public during which I had to take control, after landing it would turn into a "he said, she said" situation, meaning my credibility as an instructor would be weighed against this legend. I figured either a) nothing would happen (not 100% likely), b) I took control of the jet at the approach of the dangerous situation, after which I would be second guessed for the rest of my career, or c) I could just "ride it in" and hope for the best. I didn't like these choices and, knowing the reputation of this person, I decided to decline.
Someone else flew with this Distinguished Visitor. Of course, nothing happened. That makes me glad because I know it was just a matter of chance whether something would happen or not.
Which brings me back to the role of the instructor. It doesn't matter whether it's chance, circumstances, sunspots, or the Lochness monster, instructors will always bear the burden of keeping their flights safe.
aviationepic trip to hawaii oct 10