Things That Really Scare a Pilot ( me anyway )

There’s a big difference between startled and being in serious “doubt of the successful outcome of the maneuver”.  An FAA speak way of thinking you are about to crash.

Flying, like any other dynamic activity (surgery, nuke plant operation, bleaching your hair, etc.) requires the imposition of a sucessful outcome in order to prevent physics from choosing an undesirable outcome.

Sudden noises like bird strikes on the nose of the plane, lightning discharges, or a nose tire exploding in the gear well will startle the hell out of a crew. These things can all have a small potential for a bad outcome but usually are in the “pain in the ass requiring paper work and/or a delay” to continue category.

 Things like a sudden critical systems failure or engine failure generally trigger a trained response from the crew and aren’t really scary. Stressful, but if managed correctly usually not so scary at the time.

 A lot of pilot training actually is intended to slow down pilot reactions in the interest of the “reasoned response”. My philosophy is that it is always better to do the right thing a few seconds late than it is to do the wrong thing instantly.

Since most preventable accidents are a result of the crew flying a good airplane right into the dirt with “Whoop Whoop Pull Up” warnings sounding, the concept of fear doesn’t seem to be correctly placed.

The things that should really scare us:

(1) Smoke in the airplane. Smoke means fire, fire is bad. Doing stupid stuff is even worse so a quick decisive response is needed for this one. An airplane on fire is actually two dynamics operating simutaneously so it is important to get them both stopped right away. That is, the airplane landed and the fire out.

(2) Collision potentail, especially on the ground, is a scary thing. There is little to prevent what we call “runway incursion”. It is a big safety improvement effort area for the FAA and an important one. Why oh why isn’t every airplane at the “really big” airports equipped with a moving map GPS of the airport? Because you, the public, do not demand it and your representatives in the government will not act before a nasty accident happens.

(3) Negligence. When it comes right down to it the scariest thing is that one’s own neglect could cause something nasty to happen. Pilots make mistakes just about constantly. The trick is to be good enough at backing up yourself and your valued co-workers such that little errors don’t compound into big ones and the big ones get caught early.

(4) Trains scare me because I have concern that one will come off of the tracks and squash me if I were to wait by the track long enough. My daughter feels that this is irrational. She lives pretty much ON a busy freight rail line in a awesome old house.

One Response to “Things That Really Scare a Pilot ( me anyway )”

  1. Oh I don’t think it’s irrational! I just… you know… didn’t know.

    Besides, I am more scared of seeing other people somewhere way up high than I am of being up high myself. Talk about irrational.

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