Plane & Pilot
Wednesday, December 1, 2004

No Offense

Keeping quiet may be the safest tactic, but it’s not always the best

Exactly what part of the brain controls our egos, anyway? Since I’m not a shrink and simply apply what I’ve seen over a lifetime, I’d have to say that the part that controls our aviation ego is also tasked with the management of our sexual ego. This has to be the case and the reason for our egos because you get exactly the same reaction when you insult, degrade or, in any way, question a guy’s ability in either of those areas. Although I’m aware of that simple fact, I can still manage to hack off a pilot every now and again by making an insulting comment that makes it seem that I completely doubt his abilities as a pilot in command.

Incidentally, by writing the foregoing sentence, I purposely didn’t say (as all of us are supposed to say nowadays in the new, politically correct journalistic style) “his or her ability.” I’ve flown and taught several female student pilots and I’ve never noticed an overt egotism in any of them. On the other hand, a male’s ego seems to be floating just below the surface, where it’s easy to accidentally poke it, causing it to swell up.

This phenomenon was, once again, brought to my attention quite recently when I spoke with a potential student pilot over the phone. He was a fairly experienced aviator with 500 hours of total time logged in. Three hundred of those total hours were spent in a high-performance homebuilt plane, with which I’m quite familiar and knew that it didn’t translate to the Pitts as well as he thought it did.

I described my training program to him and mentioned that he must attend at least three hours of groundschool before strapping into the airplane. He, in turn, strongly questioned the need for so much groundschool. That, in itself, should have been my first indication of possible problems.

Without thinking or any filtering of words, I said, “You may think you know how to fly, but many things just happen too quickly in the traffic pattern to be able to adequately describe them to you if you haven’t gone through those hard-nosed concepts in groundschool.”

I soon found out that I offended him severely by remarking, “You may think you know how to fly.” Dumb, Budd, really dumb, I told myself. Even though it wasn’t an out-and-out insult, it was an unduly arrogant statement on my part that pricked his ego and instantly puffed it up. He got miffed, hung up the phone, and I never heard from him again.

Fortunately, most folks have an open attitude about learning to fly, so when an airplane shows them that they really don’t know as much as they thought they did, they respond to it in a positive manner. It may wound their ego slightly, but they still look at the situation as a good learning experience. It is, however, one thing to have an airplane wound one’s ego, but it’s something entirely different to have another person do the same thing.


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