Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Aerobatics, Judgment And Stupidity

All the FARs in the world can’t protect us from ourselves

I said that one of the obvious thought processes that's missing in accidents like that of the Cirrus is not visualizing the results of something not working out. Another has to do with not building margins into our flying. This means plenty of gas, so if winds or weather try to screw us, we're still in good shape. This means that we always assume that the weather is going to get worse, so we're mentally prepared to deal with it. It means that we think the engine is going to quit from the moment the throttle goes in on takeoff until we feel the main gear touch the runway on landing. It means that if we're going to do aerobatics, it will be in an aerobatic aircraft with the strength and maneuverability margins designed into it that it can protect us. In addition, we'll be well-trained and we'll be high enough that, if we blow a maneuver, we have a lot of room to recover. Margins are lifesavers. However, avoiding those maneuvers that have less than 100% probability of success saves even more lives.
When a pilot pushes the envelope and has a bad outcome, there were generally two...factors that weren't included in his thought process.
People get tired of me saying it, but the risks we take in life, and especially in airplanes, aren't solely our own risks. Besides risking our own necks, we're risking the happiness of our loved ones and our friends. When we do something stupid and pay the ultimate price, it's generally over for us in a few seconds. But those who know and love us continue paying an emotional price for the rest of their lives. They never truly get over what to us was just an instant of stupidity that pushed us to do something that didn't need to be done. One of the cruelest things we can do in life is damage the lives of those around us because of a "watch this" attitude.

John Wayne is often credited with saying, "Life is hard. It's even harder if you're stupid." In other words, aviation is risky enough without adding stupid to the mix. And, while there are a lot of things that we can't possibly control, the stupid-factor isn't one of them. That one we definitely have a handle on.


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