Gag Reflex

The perfect pilot may make you sick, but its a nice ideal


Theres a pilot I know who is a perfectionist to such an extreme it makes me sick.

Youll never catch the guy with outdated charts. One time the database on his IFR-approved GPS expired and he wondered if he should fly his entire route by VOR.

He has an IPC every six months, regardless of how much actual instrument time or how many approaches hes had since the last one. Even though he holds a private license, he attempts to fly to ATP standards at all times. His instructor says he usually succeeds. When he doesnt hes depressed for a while.

When its time for a BFR, he challenges the instructor to teach him something. Often he ends up teaching the instructor a thing or two as well.

Ask him about the effects of altitude or weight on maneuvering and stall speeds, and hell spit out the numbers for his airplane without a pause.

He insists on a well-maintained airplane, even though he grumbles about the cost sometimes. I once caught him flying with a loose screw on the mounting bracket of his auxiliary microphone for several months, but it got fixed at annual.

His preflights are meticulous, although he might tell you that he really ought to stick his head farther up in the gear well to check the linkages just a bit better. Some would call his weather minimums too conservative. He says there arent many destinations he thinks are worth dying for.

If he hasnt flown in a couple of weeks, he says he gets butterflies that would impress even John Lennon (who was known to throw up before going on stage). Youd never know it by looking at his technique. People who fly with him often remark that he flies like someone with 10 times the hours.

He says hes never intentionally busted an approach minimum, and for some reason you believe it. Then he says hes only flown a handful of missed approaches, and somehow you believe that too. When he finally says hes only scrubbed a few flights on account of weather in about 15 years of flying, you wonder what kind of airplane hes been flying and where hes been flying it.

His traffic patterns are crisp. Tight enough to be safe, wide enough to accommodate traffic and workload.

If you see yourself in some of these statements, youve got what it takes to be a safe pilot. If you see yourself in all of these statements, you, too, would make me sick. If you see yourself in none of these statements, or if you read them and think, What kind of a wuss is he talking about? you might want to reconsider your choice of hobbies.

This describes a real person – and one who makes flying as much a part of his life as any non-professional, non-retired pilot can. And sometimes, when I get really thoughtful about flying, aging and my mortality, I think of my wife and kids and say to myself, I want to be more like him.

-Ken Ibold


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