Whos In Charge?


I started my lessons (at 50 years old!) at an airport called Howell-New Lenox in Illinois. On my first solo, I had to go around due to a back taxi by another student with his instructor (my first exposure to being PIC in a two-pilot operation. But I was cool; I also learned that I was pretty calm in an abnormal situation—when I’m alone.

A few weeks later, after the runways had been plowed after a recent snow, my instructor and I were on short final when she thought I was not going to stay between the snow banks on the sides of the runway. She took control—but didn’t say anything, so I didn’t relinquish control. We did land on the runway, but on rollout we swerved at the runway intersection and nosed into snowbank. We were at very low speed, so we just pulled the plane out and taxied back to the FBO. No damage—just snow under the cowling.

The owner and the chief pilot were livid; however, they immediately berated the instructor. I pointed out that I was PIC; they in turn pointed out that the instructor has ultimate responsibility for safety.

These days, I fly a lot of Young Eagles and I’ll give a ride to anyone who is interested in aviation. And I let them take the controls (above 1500 agl and with my fingers on the edge of the yoke). But I always (always!) insist on the FAA’s positive exchange of controls discipline: “Your airplane—my airplane—your airplane.” When I fly as a safety pilot, or when I have a safety pilot with me, same rule. It’s worked so far!

— Jerry Ossowski



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