Shopping Cart

Your shopping cart is empty
Visit the shop

#139 Responsibility

As a flight instructor specializing in precision airmanship and tailwheel flying, I find that I get more than my share of airline pilots, who come to me for a little help with their flying of significantly smaller airplanes than they fly at work.

Brian and kids glider

Look at all those smiles. It’s the pilot’s job to keep them there.

I really enjoy flying with them.  For one thing, they share with military pilots the ability to learn.  They seem to have a humility which makes them far more able to accept a bit of constructive criticism than some general aviation pilots.

I’ve also enjoyed discussing with my airline pilot pals a little phenomenon that I first heard from Bert Garrison.  Bert was the one who told me that many non-flyers think that if one is an airline pilot, he can fly ANYTHING!

But there is one little thing which we never seem to talk about, but which enters my little mind from time to time.  Tom Sanco used to refer to passengers as “Geese”.  As in, “ya gotta give those geese in the back a nice smooth landing”.

I know that when we first get our private pilot certificate and can fly at least one other, unsuspecting person, we get the first inkling of being responsible for another’s well-being.  But can you imagine being responsible for 200 or more people behind you?

I know that some would say that it doesn’t make any difference whether you are responsible for 1 or 1,000 lives.  I disagree.  I think it makes a big difference.  But regardless of the number, as soon as we take another aloft, we are responsible for their well-being and it SHOULD make a difference.  We might think twice about doing something which would increase our risk. Aerobatics, low approaches, water skiing or a host of other things which the boys in polyester pants like to call “maneuvering flight” come to mind.

My point is this.  Always consider the risk, when another person depends on your


Two precious lives with blind faith in the pilot’s ability to keep them safe.

skill as a pilot.  It’s okay to take chances with your own life, but not with another’s.

And sometimes that other life isn’t even in the airplane with you.  When I was teaching in Florida, I’d often ask a student where he’d land if the engine quit.  If we were near a beach, he’d usually gesture toward it and say with confidence, “I’d put it down on the beach.”

“But what about that guy shepherding his kids along the sand for a fun time in the surf”, I’d ask.  I’d point out that it wasn’t really fair to subject that guy to an engineless airplane smacking him from behind.  After all, he hadn’t figured that risk into his innocent journey to the beach that day.  I told the student that he really didn’t have any choice but to put the plane in the surf, rather than endanger the life of another.

And those are just some of the things we have to think about when we hop in an airplane to enjoy this amazing flying life we lead.

Happy Swooping!


2 comments to #139 Responsibility

  • Ron Parish

    Thanks for a timely reminder Brian. I’ll use it too, if you don’t mind.

  • Michael Rutledge


    Absolutely agreed! Sound decision making is the bedrock of being good pilot, n matter the size of the ship you’re steering. In the biplane ride business, I’m continually amazed at how trusting the public is that simply because you have a license, that you’re competent, and have their safety as a primary consideration. They wholeheartedly trust us! And they have no choice once the prop starts turning.

    Its a constant evaluation process that if you have a passenger with you, maybe an extra thousand feet of altitude crossing that river will give you time to react if you lose an engine. Better yet, if the ceilings won’t give you that option, perhaps it’s not the day to be giving rides. Crossing the mountains, if there’s someone sitting next to you simply enjoying the view, respect their trust in you by using passes instead of GPS direct that will surely end poorly in case of emergency.

    Lastly, as we all agree; it only takes one un-enjoyable flight for someone to walk away from an airplane and never look back. Even with their safety intact, we hold a lot at stake when we take passengers into the blue!

    Great article, as always,


Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>