By Steve Krog, EAA 173799
This story first ran in the June 2019 issue of EAA Sport Aviation.
My student and I had just concluded an hour-long training flight
on an overcast 30-degree day. While pushing the airplane into the hangar, we
watched a pilot arrive at his aircraft, which had been tied down on the ramp
overnight. We were admiring the airplane from across the ramp when the pilot
untied the ropes, jumped in, and fired up the engine. With little or no warmup,
he taxied out and departed.
The student commented that the pilot must not respect his
airplane. “What do you mean?” I asked. He responded, “Well, the pilot didn’t
bother to check the oil, sump the fuel, or even do a walk-around. Then he
started the engine, didn’t allow it to warm up, and basically just took off!” I
thought this was an astute observation.
Does the word respect
mean anything to you regarding flying? No, I don’t mean the Queen of Soul’s
famous song of the same name.
If they want to fly confidently, safely, and proficiently, good
pilots must display a great deal of respect for the aircraft, the airspace, the
weather, the airport, fellow pilots, and, finally, for themselves. The pilot
described above apparently didn’t have respect for any of these things. What a
Respect for your airplane doesn’t just mean giving it a love tap
on the engine cowling. It means that you truly care for your aircraft by
carefully looking it over via a detailed preflight inspection before every
flight. Do you ever wonder how many accidents or incidents may have been
prevented through a good preflight? This data is not tracked, but it is
probably a significant number.
While observing my students preflighting an aircraft, we’ve found
broken landing gear bolts, leaking brakes, loose prop spinners, unhooked or
broken cowling fasteners, cracked or loose fairing strips, loose tail wheels,
and many lesser maintenance issues. Think about what could have happened had
these “squawks” not been found and corrected.
Recently, another situation presented itself, again demonstrating
a pilot’s lack of respect for his surroundings. It was a beautiful morning and
activity at our self-serve fuel island was busy. A single-engine aircraft had
just topped off the fuel tanks, and two other aircraft were parked behind
awaiting their turn at the pumps.
The pilot proceeded to start the engine but then remained sitting
in front of the fuel pumps preventing access by others. Not only did the pilot
sit there for several minutes, I suppose to activate the glass panel, but then
he proceeded to conduct his full runup right there in front of the fuel pumps.
The pilots/owners of the aircraft behind him scrambled to hang onto their wing
struts. Again, I was observing this situation with a student who commented,
“What a knob! He didn’t even bother to look around or give any consideration to
the other pilots and their airplanes.”
The self-service fuel island also presents another problem when pilots
show little or no respect for other pilots. Many of you may have either
observed or experienced this situation. A pilot will park the aircraft at the
fuel island, top off the tanks, and then walk away. The pilot may be gone for a
few minutes or an hour or more. The latter causes a serious problem as the
plane is blocking access to the fuel island. This situation shows that the
pilot has little consideration or respect for others. Had the pilot pushed the
aircraft away from the fuel island before venturing off, there would be no
Here at Hartford Municipal Airport, we have an active glider
club. Members do a lot of flying on weekends and are good neighbors and
considerate pilots overall. However, this was not always the case. When the
club first relocated to our airport, it came from an airport with little
activity. Consequently, consideration for other airport activities was lacking.
It was quite common for an individual to position their glider on the active
turf runway and then leave, preventing others from safely using the runway.
Additionally, after landing, pilots would sometimes walk away,
leaving the glider in the middle of the active turf runway and denying use by
other aircraft wanting to land. After several occurrences, the local airport
pilots met with the glider club. It wasn’t confrontational. Rather, we
developed a set of safe practices together. The problem was solved, and we all
work well together even on busy flying days.
Have you ever found yourself in the traffic pattern practicing
takeoffs and landings when you hear someone call in on a 10-mile straight-in
final? You’ve just announced that you are downwind approaching midpoint and
begin looking for the traffic on long final. The pilot then announces the
aircraft is on a 6-mile final, and you look in earnest trying to find the
aircraft that is disrupting the traffic pattern flow. Unable to spot it, you
decide it’s best to extend your downwind leg until spotting the other airplane.
A minute or more passes, you’re now 2 miles beyond the approach end of the
runway, and still no sight of the arriving plane. Finally, a dot appears, and
you’ve located the arriving aircraft but it’s still 5 miles out!
In my opinion, this action shows a lack of respect. I don’t have
a problem with straight-in approaches when there is no one else in the traffic
pattern. But when there is other traffic, the arriving pilot is showing little
or no respect for their fellow pilots. It appears as if they’re saying, “I’m
more important than you, so stay out of my way.”
Some years ago, I observed a situation that caused a great deal
of duress. It was a low overcast day. The ceiling was about 800 feet and solid
overcast with visibility just over a mile. The tops were at 6,000 feet. I had
just landed after an hour of IFR recurrency training. As I taxied in, I
observed another aircraft taxiing out. Knowing the pilot, I inquired via CTAF
what he was intending to do. He calmly replied that he was going to depart and
head west. This pilot was not IFR qualified.
I suggested that he might want to wait for the ceiling to lift,
but he commented — over the radio — that he intended to take off, activate the
autopilot, climb until above the clouds, and then head for his destination.
Knowing there was another aircraft that had been holding until I
landed, I told the pilot not to go as there was other inbound traffic in the
clouds. That was no concern of his. He questioned my heritage verbally, and
then promptly took off disappearing into the clouds. I quickly got on the
radio, contacted Flight Service, told them what had occurred, and asked them to
advise the aircraft on approach of what had transpired.
Thankfully, nothing serious happened. The pilot in the
approaching aircraft broke off his approach, returned to the VOR, and then was
cleared for another try. The departing aircraft was not in radio contact with
anyone. However, the FAA was aware of the aircraft’s N-number.
Here again was a display showing a total lack of respect. The
departing pilot had no respect for the weather, the airspace, the other
aircraft, the lives of the people he was endangering, or my suggestion he
remain on the ground for an hour or so.
Eventually, the FAA resolved the rules infraction of said pilot.
The last I heard, he had been denied the privilege of flying for a very long
time. And thankfully so.
General aviation or recreational flying should always be
considered a privilege. Therefore, it is the responsibility of every pilot to
show respect to all aspects of flight. I try to instill this mindset in every
student with whom I have the pleasure of flying. Whenever we experience a
situation that may compromise safety while in flight, I’ll ask the student,
“Who has the right of way in a particular situation?” If the student hesitates,
I ask, “Do you want to be dead right, or would you rather assume the other
pilot doesn’t see you? So, take action to prevent a potential problem. Show
some respect for yourself and your passengers by being safe and live to fly
Steve Krog, EAA
173799, has been flying for more than four decades and giving tailwheel
instruction for nearly as long. In 2006 he launched Cub Air Flight, a flight
training school using tailwheel aircraft for all primary training. For more
from Steve, check out his Classic Instructor column each month in EAA Sport Aviation.