Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Skies Are A Little Less Safe Now

Of the many people who have recently become private pilots, there is at least one more now, who perhaps shouldn't have. I refer to Mrs. Confusion. A couple weeks ago she got it.

After my talk with her about what it would take, (hoping but doubting she would be smart about it), she determined to study hard. Not long ago, she had her checkride and passsed. One might say she earned it, but I have very little doubt that she was just a little lucky, and performed well that day, and managed to prep for the oral exam itself, without really learning all a pilot needs to know. The main thing I care about at this point- to be perfectly pragmatic- is that my signature is not on the endorsement.

Many people get a private license, who should not really be pilots, and she has joined their ranks. Some manage to eventually become safe, some eventually stop using the license, and some become charred airplane-shaped craters in the ground. The disturbing part is that plenty of the latter group take innocent people with them.

I congratulated her on passing the test when I saw her later that day. I know the examiner very well, and I know it isn't a softball of a test. But I also know that he abides by the practical test standards, and that he is sometimes forced to pass someone who he knows is not going to be safe. It happens all too often.

After flying with her for about half of the 150 hours it took her to get the license (that is about double the national average), I am confident that her anxiety about new situations is likely what will keep her safest. She isn't going to go into unfamiliar places alone.

However, I give it about an 80% chance that she will have some sort of incident or accident in the next year or so. Most likely either damaging the landing gear, or something relatively minor. Her husband is far more likely there, since he lacks her level of anxiety, but has no more clue than she does. One of them will either get lost and wander into the wrong airspace, or have a mid-air collision (neither knows how to communicate).

I wish them well, and hope I'm wrong. Either way, it is a reminder that there are unpredictable people up there.


At 3:45 PM, Anonymous phil said...

It seems that if an examiner knows that a pilot is not going to be safe, she can find a way of failing them. i.e. creating a difficult diversion, landing on short, narrow, crosswind runways ... etc. BTW thanks for the interesting blog.

At 3:21 PM, Blogger adr said...

I'll try not to keep this in mind as I hop my flight for Portland tomorrow. Glad to see you're blogging again; looking forward to reading/hearing about all the new job adventures.

At 9:27 PM, Blogger also-known-as said...

Phil, that's very true. The fact is, any examiner could find a way to fail any applicant, if he wanted. This particular examiner has always been my favorite though, because he puts aside any of that. The issue at hand for him is that he can't base the results on what anyone else says. The results are based entirely on whether or not that person meets the test standards on that particular day. It is the best way to do it, but it does allow the possibility of situations like this.


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