There is a scar on the index finger of my right hand that reminds me of a very important lesson. What you don’t know can hurt you. A corollary to that is what you’ve been told, but don’t believe, can hurt you, too.
That’s how I ended up with that scar. My mom did her duty. She told me the stove was hot and I would be wise not to touch it. But I was a most skeptical 3 year old, so I devised an experiment to see if mom knew what she was talking about. I would not touch the stove, but I would touch the frying pan that was on the stove. It seemed to me that slight bit of insulation, being at least one object away from the burner itself, would ensure my safety.
You know what happened. I left a piece of skin on a hot frying pan and acquired a physical reminder of a lesson that can be plausibly applied to almost any human endeavor. I might have cried a bit, too. I was 3 years old after all, not exactly the best candidate for suffering in silence.
Currently I’m writing up a safety presentation on operating at non-towered airports. Note I didn’t say uncontrolled airports. Non-towered airports are not uncontrolled airports unless the pilots flying into and out of the field insist on it being so.
Unfortunately, a disturbingly high percentage of them do whatever they want, whenever they want, regardless of what their fellow pilots are doing, and with complete disregard for the guidance provided by the FAA via the Aeronautical Information Manual.
The classic argument is, “The AIM is advisory, not regulatory. I can enter or leave the pattern any way I want at a non-towered airport, and there’s no rule that says I can’t.”
That’s true. Entirely true. I can’t argue with a word of it. Then again, having written a half dozen books or so, and a couple thousand articles, I know that writing something down in an attempt to educate, inform, or entertain takes a fair amount of work.
Yes, that’s possible. It’s not likely, but it is possible. Then again, perhaps the FAA produces all this educational and informational material because they think pilots should actually learn how to conduct themselves appropriately at any airport in the United States.
I believe that to be true. How about you?
Just the other day, while taxiing out to the runway with a passenger, we overheard a transient aircraft call in on final for a closed runway. The line service worker on duty called the errant pilot, suggesting he might notice a big “X” at the arrival end of the runway, and another at the departure end, and a whole bunch of heavy equipment manned by busy workmen scattered in between the two. He said it far less sarcastically than I just did, but the point was made.
The pilot lining up on the closed runway revised his plan and chose to land on one that was actually open for business. A runway that was already in use by multiple aircraft he’d been ignoring completely.
Now, we all do something stupid on occasion. Remember that scar on my knuckle? Yeah, I include myself in the Dumbass Olympics as a Bronze Medalist. But I’m learning.
The information that pilot needed to know about the runway being closed was readily available. In fact, it was available for free. He didn’t have to pay a dime to get up to speed on his planned destination. He just didn’t bother to do it.
Which means he didn’t get a briefing prior to taking flight. Not from 1-800-Wx-Brief, not from 1800WxBrief.com, and not from any one of a number of free and subscription services that would have hipped him to the facts, Daddy-O.
No, you’re not cool if you fly off without the information you need to know before you go. Again, the FAA actually has a regulation about that. Still, far too many of us ignore that guidance and go off half-cocked, intentionally, with the fast-held belief that all will be well no matter what.
What could go wrong? It’s a beautiful day.
There is a flight school based not far from my home field. Their instructors often bring their students to my non-towered field for landing practice. That’s all well and good, but for reasons that escape me, they tend to fly a right-hand pattern even though both runways at my home airport operate with left-hand patterns.
What message do you suppose those instructors are sending to their students? I imagine they’re imparting an awareness that you can fly any pattern you want at a non-towered airport, even if the other aircraft in the pattern are flying the opposite pattern for the same runway, which happens from time to time.
Had Errant Pilot #1 continued on his approach without a last-minute warning about the runway being closed, he might have had the chance to test his go-around skills in a real-world environment. That might not have worked out so well. Or maybe it would.
Does anyone feel like rolling the dice on a deal like that?
If a student is trained that it’s okay to fly right-hand patterns when the other pilots are flying left-hand patterns, how safe do you suppose their flying experiences will be in the long run?
If only aviation was gifted with a book, and a pamphlet, and a website, and in-person safety presentations to make it clear that what you don’t know can hurt you, and that what you choose to ignore can beat you up pretty good, too.
Oh wait…we already have all that stuff.
Maybe, and I’m just spitballing here, but maybe we should all use them now and then. Like a refresher, ya’ know?
It couldn’t hurt.