Butting In: Should You When Another Pilot Goes Awry?

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Here's a quandary that may sound familiar. At my local airport, we have a pilot whom I'll call Joe. Every other pilot on the field assumes he will end up in a smoking hole. Do you know the guy I'm talking about? This is the guy who takes no advice seriously; who believes he is the best pilot on the field; who has convinced himself he can do anything in an airplane and that his airplane can do anything he asks of it. He's the guy who fails to acknowledge any limitations in his own skill or knowledge following an "incident."

Joe's most recent episode involved a slight excursion off the runway during landing. That day there was a fairly stiff, direct crosswind. I watched Joe make two aborted landing attempts from the north before he switched runways and attempted a landing from the south. Landing from the north is optimum for this runway; there are no obstructions on approach and a long grass overrun at the south end provides an extra measure of safety for a long landing. Landing from the south, however, requires an approach over tall trees and power, lines followed by a flare on a slight uphill gradient--even without the crosswind such a landing poses challenges for the unwary. Given all the disadvantages of doing so, why Joe made the decision to land from the south remains a mystery. One can only assume he believed a direct crosswind from the right was easier to handle than from the left.

In the end, Joe made it safely over the trees, but drifted left with the crosswind in the flare. He wound up in the grass after smacking two runway edge lights and adding a few dents to the bottom of the left wing and flap. Joe didn't mention the incident to anyone, but the airport manager noticed the knocked-over runway lights and the new dents on Joe's plane. When confronted, Joe admitted getting "a bit left of centerline" due to a "strong gust," but said he felt sure he had properly used his rudder to control the drift --like he'd been trained--and had remained on the runway. He asked to be billed for the damaged lights.

This is typical Joe. He blames a clear loss of lateral control during landing on a strong gust of wind while claiming he controlled the drift with rudder. But, you say, lateral control during landing is achieved with aileron, not rudder! Yup. This is the conundrum that is Joe; a magnificent (suicidal?) confidence in non-existent skill and knowledge.

This was but the latest in Joe's exploits. One recent morning he departed eastward behind a thousand-mile-long frontal system that had passed the night before. Joe's intended destination was on the other side of the front. When asked before departure by another pilot if he had checked the weather, Joe said he planned to get up to 11,000 or 12,000 feet and go over the top of any rain. Somehow, Joe lived through the experience, but not without a few interesting moments. During a particularly heavy period of turbulence, the compass was knocked from its mount on the glareshield. At one point, Joe said he lost 4000 feet in an un-commanded descent--in the clouds. He said only his "superb training" allowed him to recognize an impending stall while trying to arrest the descent. He claimed he hadn't noticed losing some 80 knots indicated airspeed, but he felt the buffet (in the turbulence?) before his training kicked in and he forced himself to push forward instead of pull back.

There was no acknowledgement that he should have more carefully checked the weather, or that perhaps a better understanding of his aircraft's performance capability might have led to a different go/no-go decision. Suggestions from other pilots along those lines fell on Joe's deaf ears--he lived to tell the tale after all, so his skill must have been up to the challenge.

Which brings us to my quandary: What do I do about Joe? Nearly every pilot at the field who is aware of his (mis)adventures has made an attempt to change his attitude. When Joe tells me stories like the one above, I tell him in no uncertain terms where I think he's made poor decisions, or when I believe he needs more flight training. But Joe just gives me a slight head shake along with one of those smiles that says he clearly believes my fears and concerns are misplaced. So what else do I do? Do I have any further obligation? It sure feels like I do.

There is no question Joe has been lucky, but everyone's luck eventually runs out. We all believe it is simply a matter of time for Joe. And just about every pilot I know who knows Joe feels that if and when it does we will be partly to blame, because we see it coming.

I'm interested to hear your thoughts. What would you about Joe?

Comments (107)

He is either going to kill himself or get violated by the FAA. At that point, he will probably continue to fly with a suspended/revoked certificate. It seems as if this is mostly a case of poor judgment. However, are there regulations being broken? Maybe a call to the local FSDO might be in store...

Posted by: Chris Barnes | May 24, 2010 7:35 PM    Report this comment

I've personally seen a couple of these approaches taken. A pilot in his personal aircraft was making some foolish choices with ice - someone (I'm not sure who) called the FSDO, and to my knowledge no action was taken other than some questions were asked. I have spoken with inspectors about situations like this, they say that it is very difficult to violate someone without actually catching them in the act. To the other extreme, I saw a person actually stand in front of an airplane one of my friends was preparing to fly because he thought the wx was too bad at 2 miles and ground fog (my friend is instrument rated, 4000+ hours - a piece of cake for him) In Joe's case, I think the first chance of stopping him rests with the CFI signing off his flight review. In the renter pilot's case, I think the FBO or flight school operating the aircraft has the moral (and perhaps legal) responsibility to refuse to knowingly rent an aircraft to a pilot who overloads it or operates it unsafely. That being said, there is no legal basis I am aware of for us regular pilots (or airport managers for that matter) to ask for pilot or mechanic certificates or weight and balance from another aircraft owner - this rests with the FAA or local law enforcement.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | May 25, 2010 10:47 AM    Report this comment

And one of my pet peeves - personal limits are just that - personal. Don't harass a pilot for doing something that violates YOUR personal minimums but that he or she is perfectly capable of doing safely - just because you can't handle a 20kt crosswind doesn't mean that I can't do so safely And there is a difference between a one time lack of judgment you learn from an a person who habitually ignores their limits. A person who hasn't done something stupid at least once is either a student on their first lesson or is someone who just might fib a little from time to time. Additionally - if a person observes obviously unsafe activiites (say a drunk pilot, or unauthorized low level aerobatics) perhaps a call to local law enforcement would be in order. I suspect their testimony might be pretty effective in an enforcement case.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | May 25, 2010 10:48 AM    Report this comment

I had made an earlier comment and then realized that the incident was a little to specific for a public forum. At the flight school, we have some control over renters, but when it comes right down to it, a person is exercising his/her pilot-in-command responsibilities and there's not much a bystander can do about it. We've put some rules on renters - things like recency of experience in taildraggers etc, but a pilot taking his personal aircraft into conditions that you deem are unsafe is as Josh stated. The only thing that can be done is to make sure your signature doesn't appear anywhere in these pilots' logbook.

Posted by: Jerry Plante | May 25, 2010 11:49 AM    Report this comment

Lacking a reportable incident or accident, it's very difficult to get the FSDO involved. (This despite some claims that the FAA is lurking around every corner waiting to violate you at a moment's notice - usually claimed by someone trying to sell you something). I watched a twin pilot shoot an approach in low overcast, and he only saw the field when he was over it. Instead of shooting a missed approach (climbing turn to the right) he cranked it left and made a very low circling approach. From where I stood I was sure he was going to hit the power lines. When he landed he was all puffed up about his "gutsy maneuver."

I can only advise that you make sure you never sign anything of his. I wouldn't even sign off on an oil change on his airplane.

Posted by: Donald Harper | May 25, 2010 12:58 PM    Report this comment

And there is a difference between a one time lack of judgment you learn from an a person who habitually ignores their limits.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | May 25, 2010 1:01 PM    Report this comment

Josh - you sound familiar - ever been to Aviano?

Posted by: michael anderson | May 25, 2010 2:02 PM    Report this comment

"Yeah, but what he's asking is how you tell the difference."

That really is a tough one unless you know the pilot quite well. As an instructor, you can often get a pretty good feel for it when you fly with the guy for an hour but not always. If I haven't flown with someone before, I always like to incorporate scenarios in a flight review or flight training, find the pilot's limits (in a safe and non-threatening manner), and see how he/she responds in that instance.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | May 25, 2010 2:18 PM    Report this comment

No, never been there but one of my wife and my dreams is to tour Europe by air someday. I hear there are lots of beautiful sights to see in Italy by air and ground!

Posted by: Josh Johnson | May 25, 2010 7:15 PM    Report this comment

This situation is similar to what is seen in medicine, law, and engineering. At what point to fellow engineers (for example) approach the State Board with regard to revocation? If a professional is unsafe, he risks the lives of others. At some point we must take action. The determination of that point is a tough call.

Before engineering, I was a Houston police officer. It was easy then - if we came across someone who just could no longer drive, we filled out a form and the driver was called in for a test. If they did not show up, their license was revoked. The fact that an officer initiated the request made the examiner more critical in his decision.

If there were a number of incidents that could be documented, the FAA would take action.

We all have to watch out for GA and police ourselves. Drawing the line on when to act is tough - we all make mistakes. Some pilots have 1,000 hours while others have equal time; 100 hours, ten times.

Posted by: James Lawrence | May 26, 2010 1:55 AM    Report this comment

If I remember correctly every airport or area of airport has a civilian/none FAA safety "advisor or something like that" and one of his roles is to mediate on stuff like this. That is what I was told when I asked what do you do if your student do not give a dam and you scold him and still do not give a dam. Is not an student but is the same thing!

Posted by: Ivan Menchero | May 26, 2010 2:10 AM    Report this comment

Instructor's limitations are binding on an endorsement for student solo. I put a limitation on any endorsement requiring the student receive my approval before any solo flight. If he/she is irresponsible (have yet to see it happen) they lose their solo privileges with me. This does two things - it limits my liability as I know the weather conditions the student is flying in. Secondly - it encourages completion since the student is not flying with a mission - not just for enjoyment (although it can be fun at the same time) Solo flight is for the purpose of earning a certificate - not to go joyride and just have a CFI sign you off every 90 days. My job is to keep the student safe as he/she progresses through the learning process.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | May 26, 2010 7:03 AM    Report this comment

These folks are out there a'plenty, and they will do what they want to regardless of what anyone tells them. It is pointless to intervene, and they are the final authority as to the operation of their aircraft. I have no problem with them reducing their gene pool, but it's not fair to a trusting passenger who doesen't know any better.

Posted by: Jim Shaw | May 26, 2010 7:10 AM    Report this comment

Has Joe violated any FARs? According to the story, no. Do we want someone to "judge us" for, well, not the best airmanship? I think not. However, that does not mean that we should not say something to Joe, maybe he will listen. We can only hope that something might "sink in". We lost a pilot here in the area that did not follow advice from several persons to get additional training. Are we sure that if he had taken our advice he would have done better? Will never know. For other "Joes" that have not had their fate come to them, we can only hope that it will not be like our friend here.

Posted by: Glen Phelps | May 26, 2010 7:54 AM    Report this comment

Once again, the anarchist tendency of pilots is showing through. If I remember correctly from my FOI studies "Don't tell me what to do" is identified as a hazardous attitude.

....Jim Shaw - if it were as simple and removing these pilots from the gene pool, I'd agree with you. However, every time a small plane crashes, it makes the local news. Poor pilot decisions that result in a crash, death or death or injury to an innocent bystander on the ground gives all of GA a bad name. It fuels the anti-airport arguments and often results in some additional rules that all aviation anarchists must deal with.

Posted by: Jerry Plante | May 26, 2010 8:12 AM    Report this comment

Find out who his insurance company is and give them an anonamous call - the rest of end up paying for idiots like this in our premiums, it seems logical that the folks who make their money betting that we won't crash ought to know who are more likely to, then they can take the decision whether to revoke his coverage or increase his premium. I know that's a dirty whistle-blower thing to do, but if the man is actively trying to tempt fate then why should the rest of us responsible flyers pay for it?

Posted by: Peter Sharpe | May 26, 2010 8:19 AM    Report this comment

From FAR part 91:

"The pilot in command of an aircraft is directly responsible for, and is the final authority as to, the operation of that aircraft."

"No person may operate an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another."

Does losing control of one's aircraft demonstrate carelessness?

One might make the argument that Joe is not aware of his own skill limitations so he is not technically in violation of the above mandates, but somehow I doubt such an argument would fly in an administrative proceeding.

Posted by: Mark Sletten | May 26, 2010 9:21 AM    Report this comment

My wife & I have bi-annuals on alternating years. Every year we have the same CFI tell us the same things about how "dangerous" we are in how we fly our plane... we have over 1,000 hours in it while he has about 6. Every year we turn over the controls and ask him to demonstrate "safe" procedures which he promptly & obviously fails... he even admits it. We are not do as I say, but do as I do people. Something about glass houses... Anarchy my foot.

Posted by: David Spencer | May 26, 2010 9:50 AM    Report this comment

Get a new CFI

Posted by: VERNON CHILDERS | May 26, 2010 9:52 AM    Report this comment

The "Joes" are too common, but sadly there's no good way for fellow pilots to intervene outside of a professional relationship (flight instruction, BFRs, etc.). The FAA will be reluctant to get involved without evidence of a violation or mishap if Joe is under Part 91.

However, the forces of nature effectively police the Joes of the world. Joe will continue his reckless and arrogant disregard of obvious risks, and his skill/daring will work for him, delivering his egomanical reward, until one day it doesn't. On that day, Joe will be found at the end of a debris field. The forces of nature will simply extinguish Joe -- without appeal, mitigating circumstances, apology or remorse. Insurance rates may go up a little (if he had insurance), an aircraft will be destroyed, property will be damaged, serious injuries may be experienced and lives may be lost. Surviving family and friends will gather at a funeral parlor to recount the joy of having known Joe, how he died doing what he loved, and life will go on.

Each year, 500 or so people die in general aviation accidents. Most of the deaths, injuries, property damage and general mayhem don't have to occur, but until flight instruction and pilot certification standards are reformed to include risk awareness, mitigation, and behaviorial human factors coupled with administrative mechanisms to eliminate the Joes from the pilot population, such outcomes will continue. Seems to be the way the world works!

Posted by: Keith Bumsted | May 26, 2010 10:37 AM    Report this comment

The question has nothing to do with aviation. His freedom ends where others' begins, and vice versa. As long as his personal freedom is respected, the writer is in error to assume anything further with Joe in behavior modification, fear of GA image, or personal distaste. Work on positive examples of one's own and leave others to their own lives and experiences. If he needs to be held accountable for damages or other legal/property issues that should be addressed, but nothing else. Keep one's finger aligned with the others.

Posted by: David Miller | May 26, 2010 12:02 PM    Report this comment

Dave Miller said: 'As long as his personal freedom is respected, the writer is in error to assume anything further with Joe in behavior modification, fear of GA image, or personal distaste.'

I'm unsure how you got that from the article. My primary concern is safety: Joe's, his passengers' and any innocent bystanders'.

My descriptions of Joe's exploits were not intended to express distaste, but to illustrate Joe's perilious position.

While GA's image, increased insurance costs, etc. are worth considering, they are not the reason I wrote the article. The benefits of living in a free society are manifold. We are free (for the most part) to turn a blind eye to those in need, or free not to.

Simply put, there is a fellow pilot in peril and I feel duty bound to help -- if I can.

Posted by: Mark Sletten | May 26, 2010 12:42 PM    Report this comment

Two questions: What should you do about Joe?, and What can you do about Joe?
I disagree your intervention is impinging on his right of self-determination. If you don’t police Joe’s actions, and Joe takes the proverbial schoolyard of kids with him, no one would absolve your not taking action with a nod to your decision to preserve his individual freedoms.
The FARs do speak to his careless operation, and his repetitive behavior has no doubt left more than the one scar on the airport, so there will be evidence of a violation, when and if it is reported.
So now, you are aware of a violation of the FARs. What are you obligated to do?
FAR 13.1 Reports of Violations.
(a) “Any person who knows of a violation of the (FARs)…should report it to the appropriate personnel of any FAA regional or district office.”
13.1(b) says the FAA will review the report to “determine the nature and type of any additional investigation or enforcement action the FAA will take.”
I read: maybe they will, maybe they won’t. What else can you do to insure the FAA takes the appropriate look at Joe?
FAR 13.5 Formal complaints.
(a) says if your report it IAW (b) below, then they must investigate, must take action if a violation has occurred, and must inform the filer of the report in writing of their decision and results, if any.
True, while 13.1 can be anonymous, 13.5 is not, but this is a small price to pay given the unacceptable consequence of doing nothing.

Posted by: Lee Conner | May 26, 2010 12:57 PM    Report this comment

In a day when men brag about the number of airbags in their Prius, learning on the fly seems too hazardous it seems.

Treat the guy like an alcoholic employee: You cannot criticize the drinking but you can criticize the performance. The airport manager already has a reason to talk, so talk. More accidents occur between touchdown and shutdown,taking out lights, barriers, fuel trucks and other planes, so if Joe whizzes past while you and the kids are polishing your plane then tell Joe 'we need to talk about the Nall report.' Or consider asking Joe to tag along while you practice crosswind landings. Maybe he'll learn a better way. Or loan him your King Schools 'Mastering Crosswind Landings' video. There are plenty of peer ways to get thru that are effective and fun without calling in the cops.

Posted by: Thomas Connor | May 26, 2010 1:08 PM    Report this comment

Just because it can be done doesn't mean it should be done... freedom means the right to fail. But then, we don't really want freedom anymore; do we?

Flame away...

Posted by: David Spencer | May 26, 2010 1:18 PM    Report this comment

I'll try to keep this as non-flammable as I can... :)
In principle, I do agree with your assertion. Obviously, we all have the right to make decisions that will affect other ourselves only, as well as others. Sometimes, these decisions will end poorly. Part of that freedom we have/desire means we have to be prepared to accept responsibility for our decisions, good or bad. It doesn't sound like "Joe" is prepared to do that.

Also, we have a freedom to fly only as long as there is a positive perception of GA. Pilots like "Joe" do not portend to this positive perception, which increases those calls for airport closures and more restrictions, which decrease our freedom to fly. While "Joe" has every right to make his poor decisions, I think other pilots have every right to call him on them, or pursue action if his actions will in any cause harm to others or to GA.

Posted by: BRANDON FREEMAN | May 26, 2010 1:28 PM    Report this comment

Brandon, I think it would be reasonable to ground a pilot like Joe, but how on earth do you do that? In my opinion, a 4000 ft altitude bust under IFR should be grounds for a 709 ride. Around here ATC gets really crabby if you're off more than a couple hundred feet.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | May 26, 2010 1:35 PM    Report this comment

Josh, I'm not sure how you would go about doing that. Short of an intervention by his peers (which the author has at least tried one-on-one), I'm not sure what one can do to change "Joe"'s mindset. I have a couple friends in the local FSDO. I'll have to start asking them some hypothetical questions. :)

Posted by: BRANDON FREEMAN | May 26, 2010 1:41 PM    Report this comment

For all... I, like Tom, call people all the time for "acting stupidly", being arrogant or just flat dangerous and encourage EVERYBODY to do the same to me. Lord knows I've always needed it. They know it and pick at my nits when they can. It's called peer pressure and is, IMNSHO, our most powerful tool.

I do not, however, call the cops. My wife & I have lost a lot of pilot friends (all flew for either a major or Fortune 500) because they screwed up... just once. continued...

Posted by: David Spencer | May 26, 2010 2:03 PM    Report this comment

continued... If I called the cops every time someone landed downwind, didn't use the radio, talked only in (Spanish or Arabic), cut in front of the taxi line (hilarious happening in Houston recently), busted the B airspace, got three landings on one approach, parachuted directly in front of me, smoked at the fuel pump, called final as they passed over my right wing on final, told me to get out of the way as they were landing in the opposite direction to active runway (FAA) or a myriad of other things; my iPhone bill would be huge and the feds would have grounded ME.

40+ years of flying has taught me that the more airbags we get and the safer we become, it will never be enough for those who see the sky falling. I have also observed that in 40+ years we have NEVER been well liked or accepted... just rich daredevils out to destroy the world.

Posted by: David Spencer | May 26, 2010 2:26 PM    Report this comment

Reading the above I have come to realise why I really don’t feel like flying anymore. The arrogance of those who wish to judge and dictate to others on how they should behave is unbelievable. Many should take a step back and look at themselves and see themselves as others do. Then you ask why GA is failing? When I was a young man learning to fly I would be approached by farmers who were in town for the day to fly them home because they were too drunk to. Try landing on an unknown and unlicensed field in the middle of the night with only a pair of headlights showing you where the runway is. There was no law against it then and you learnt to do it properly. Today I would say NO but in my youth I jumped at the chance every time. I realise that today’s youth find flying so boring and unrewarding and it’s all because we are too quick to judge anyone and everyone if they don’t do things the way we do. WHAT A SHAME. No wonder the youth go racing or speed boating, skydiving etc there is a lot more fun there. They mustn’t interfere with the old fogies and upset their precious low accident rate.
Sorry this subject irks me lots. Who gave anyone the right to judge others in what they do and don’t tell me it’s dangerous and affects others. Rubbish. I’ve had fifty five years of glorious flying without an accident or even a minor incident and there is no luck to that. Now I find the atmosphere no longer to my liking. Every day we are bombarded with new laws and regulations.

Posted by: Bruce Savage | May 26, 2010 2:38 PM    Report this comment

We're pretty close to jumping off-topic here, but I'll have to follow up Bruce's statement, which - again - you're fully within your right to state...
Have you talked to "the youth" whom you claim to know so well? Have you asked any of them why they like one thing over flying? I'm 25, making less than $30k/year. I MAKE the time and effort to fly, because I want to. I take people up who have never been in a GA plane, and they've all loved the experience. I'll probably never know if any of them catch the bug and learn to fly, unless I run into them years down the line.
I don't presume to know you, or your reasons for flying, and I'm sorry that you no longer enjoy it. I also don't presume...continued

Posted by: BRANDON FREEMAN | May 26, 2010 3:04 PM    Report this comment

...that I'm perfect in anyway. Any flight that I take where I'm not at my best, I'm well aware of it. However, there is a difference between a not-so-perfect landing, and someone who refuses to own up to their own mistakes, which - again - goes back to the original intent of this column.

Again, I try not to presume anything, but if something looks dangerous and could conceivably give GA a black eye, why not speak up?

Posted by: BRANDON FREEMAN | May 26, 2010 3:08 PM    Report this comment

The assumption that Joe is a 'pilot in peril' is limiting and quite self-righteous in my opinion. Like love at first sight, he could turn things around in a heartbeat one day on his own, or at least start to want to. He deserves that freedom to learn to step back, turn around or circle as he sees fit, unfettered by those who think they need to meddle and interfere without his asking for it or permission. If laws are broken then decide if you want to be the one to point that out or not. One may say safety is a primary concern with the behavior of others, I respect that, but for me it is merely another cloak some use for control over others' behavior and actions. Every war begins this way.

Posted by: David Miller | May 26, 2010 3:14 PM    Report this comment

Dave Miller said: 'One may say safety is a primary concern with the behavior of others, I respect that, but for me it is merely another cloak some use for control over others' behavior and actions.'

One might use a similar argument so suggest society shouldn't require flight training and the demonstration of pratical skills to a flight examiner prior to the issuance of a pilot certificate.

Posted by: Mark Sletten | May 26, 2010 3:24 PM    Report this comment

Bruce wrote,

Bruce, I agree the job of determining if the public safety is at peril by an individual's actions is best left to the experts, and that is the intent of Part 13 investigations. Would you also claim the FAA inspectors' were arrogant to inforce the FARs? If not, then is it arrogant to report a violation?
Would you have us all fly with no oversight, or no accountability to a necessarily strict set of rules?
Aviation is one arena where I grudgingly acknowledge we need government, and a lot of really tight rules.
And what good are rules if they are not enforced?

Posted by: Lee Conner | May 26, 2010 3:25 PM    Report this comment

I've been in love with pushing myself for 64 years. As such I have always queried people why they didn't learn how to fly, race cars, sail boats, snow ski... the things I've loved.

Surprisingly, the answers haven't changed much in 40 years. 1. Too dangerous 2. Can't drink or take any drug I want to 3. Have to stay in shape 4. Too dirty 5. Too many rules

Today, I fear we are far too challenged pushing buttons rather than ourselves... my sparsely occupied gym is further proof.

Posted by: David Spencer | May 26, 2010 3:32 PM    Report this comment

What, no skydiving on your list? Wimp.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | May 26, 2010 3:38 PM    Report this comment

Paul... Now that's really scary. I mean, what if I should fall to my death?

Posted by: David Spencer | May 26, 2010 3:45 PM    Report this comment

...and no motorcycles I might add! More to the point, I fear the Joe's of the world more for the damage they can do to others on the ground, in other planes, and/or to the reputation of GA than their own bone-headed decisions to fly in an unsafe manner. I'm in the process of shifting from an uncontrolled airport to a towered airport because the flying population at the uncontrolled airport contains too many folks that are just downright dangerous to others by how they enter & fly patterns, communicate or fail to, etc...too much of the "well I've been flying for years" mentality involved.

Posted by: ROGER HAMILTON | May 26, 2010 3:58 PM    Report this comment

Thanks Roger... What's next tar n' feathers?

Posted by: David Spencer | May 26, 2010 4:57 PM    Report this comment

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel. He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself and he reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself. Do not reprove a scoffer or he will hate you, reprove a wise man and he will thank you for it.

I have two types of friends, wise, and foolish. I know that saying something to the wise friend will bear fruit, or at least they will listen, (I do not think all knowledge will cease to exist when I die). As for my foolish friends, they are self-made individuals, and they are not going to change no matter what I say to them. The difference is knowing when to keep my mouth shut and when to speak up.

Posted by: VERNON CHILDERS | May 26, 2010 5:12 PM    Report this comment

So, then, at the end of the day, do we have an obligation to report violations to the FAA?
I think our obligation is to the integrity of our industry, and to the folks in the air & on the ground that did not get a vote whether Joe gets to continue his dubious ways.
In Joe's case, I would not hesitate if I were the author, as he has witnessed the intractability of Joe's opinion of his own skills and is the only judge among us able to make the call.
And I think the author should make the call.1-866-TELL-FAA.

Posted by: Lee Conner | May 26, 2010 6:33 PM    Report this comment

Incredible... Not only am I a wimp, and a "bone-headed" aviator flying in a dangerous & unsafe manner, now I'm a "wicked man" in the eyes of the Lord.

You guys have some mighty powerful crystal balls... so tell me, what ever happened to civility?

Rules: Please keep it civil. Save the name-calling and insults for private e-mail or newsgroups.

Posted by: David Spencer | May 26, 2010 6:38 PM    Report this comment

This probably sounds callous, but I don't think Joe having his airplane ripped apart in a thunderstorm does a lot of damage to GA. I'd just make sure I wasn't on the hook when the lawsuits are filed. Also, if he's taking passengers you might consider discouraging them from flying with Joe. I'm still interested in why he didn't get a violation over the altitude bust - I really think he should have. I also hope his A&P slams him on re-skinning his belly over the runway lights (if he believes in having annuals done on his airplane!)

Posted by: Josh Johnson | May 26, 2010 6:58 PM    Report this comment

David, as we say in skydiving, just pull at the strings and you'll be fine. Actually, I have several skydiving friends who got fairly busted up...snowboarding.

I share you're point of view right down the line.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | May 26, 2010 8:51 PM    Report this comment

I think we've been baited and the self righteous rose to the occasion ready to form a lynch mob for Joe. mark Sletten's article is so vague that it could apply to any of us somewhere in any flying career over 50 hours of solo and rusty crosswind skills. WWID? Ask the story teller for more data, that's what.

First we are told Joe thinks highly of himself and his flying skills. Have you ever met a fighter pilot?!? It's the same attitude with a big watch, green baggy skin and a plane that can shoot back. And we pay them to do it.

As far as the rudder thing, what kind of crosswind landing was he doing? Shall we guess? It appears some want to. We don't have enough info to know for sure. I do know that the direction of crosswind can surely affect the level of excitement on a go-around after a forward slip to land. Assuming Joe went to the opposite end of the same runway (we have to guess) suggests it, but we don't really know. But maybe it was just a crab. We don't know that either. What does the aileron do in a crab to land? Anyone??

Posted by: Thomas Connor | May 26, 2010 9:14 PM    Report this comment

Ditto the dastardly deed of flying across a front. Many fronts pass with little fanfare. That "Joe said he lost 4000 feet in an un-commanded descent--in the clouds" could mean a lot of things. Ditto not noticing a loss of airspeed. My first instinct is to dismiss it as a tall tale, perhaps to explain the broken compass. Maybe he slowed to Va for the turbulence, losing both altitude and airspeed. Or he fell asleep. Is there a cause and effect relationship between flying across a front and those things or it's a poorly writ tale or the author wants to see how many connect dots without enough dots? Lacking real data my theory is that Joe did what the feds teach us to do with inadvertent IMC: Do the 180 turn and get disoriented. A resultant spin would also explain the loss of altitude and airspeed. (The USN teaches just the opposite with inadvertent IMC: Stabilize; get on the instruments and climb above the highest terrain Then sort it out with whomever. But I digress.)

Posted by: Thomas Connor | May 26, 2010 9:15 PM    Report this comment

By the way, where does Mark Sletten's screed say Joe had an instrument license or clearance to bust altitude on?? Anyone?? I cannot find it. So we really don't have a clue what happened there do we?

For some reason there is a lot of assuming going on. Why?

Does anyone remember the movie Short Circuit? Given ambiguous or incomplete information the robot would say: Need more input!

That's what I'm asking Mark. Fill in the blanks. And you guys who seem to know more facts than given need to spend some time in the penalty box and stop the assuming and rushing to judgment. It's a lynch mob mentality.

Posted by: Thomas Connor | May 26, 2010 9:16 PM    Report this comment

If it walks like a duck....
The author's rhetorical question requires no further info.
Pu another way, if you knew Joe had regularly broken FARs, would you report him?

Posted by: Lee Conner | May 26, 2010 10:22 PM    Report this comment

One might use a similar argument so suggest society shouldn't require flight training and the demonstration of pratical skills to a flight examiner prior to the issuance of a pilot certificate.

This statement dances around the subject like Joe must do when confronted by the Righteous on his flying skills. Without FARs violated it's no ones' bidness but his own... Really want to help Joe instead of ones' self? Do something out-of-the-blue kind for him. This type of person is among the loneliest of us all- that's why the defensiveness and bravado. Not admitting to wanting to be a snitch is no different than Joe avoiding his demons.

Posted by: David Miller | May 26, 2010 11:34 PM    Report this comment

This discussion brings back a memory from when I was an early teenager hanging around the airport. The FBO and other pilots would talk about the local Catholic priest-pilot who owned a Piper Pacer (or was it a Tri-Pacer) and who was known to habitually climb with the stall light on (or horn blaring; not sure which it was) and they all predicted his and his passengers demise from that practice. As far as I know, that result never occurred. No moral here, just a long-ago and now amusing recollection.

Posted by: Malcolm Ruthven | May 27, 2010 5:28 AM    Report this comment

An interesting observation from life - the most self righteous ones are the ones usually the ones that get caught in bed with the church secretary.
If you've got nothing in it - keep your nose out of it. A good rule of thumb for life and aviation.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | May 27, 2010 7:00 AM    Report this comment

Whether we like it or not, pilots are viewed by the rest of the country as being one community. And we all pay for the actions of the screwballs. How? In higher insurance premiums, in closed airports, and in restrictive rule making. But holding others accountable is not part of the American culture -- chance of lawsuit, always give a second chance, etc. Holding others accountable -- and holding yourself to a higher standard -- is referred to by a number of names. Leadership. Responsibility. Integrity. Professionalism.

Posted by: Ed Wischmeyer | May 27, 2010 7:51 AM    Report this comment

tom connor said: 'Have you ever met a fighter pilot?!?'

Yes, I have. And every single one of them represented thousands of hours of military training and several years of standardized flight evaluations. That meant the vast, vast majority of them -- windbags all -- had the chops to back up their bravado.

tom connor said: 'That's what I'm asking Mark. Fill in the blanks.'

I'm not sure what more info you need. "Joe" is instrument rated (I have no idea about his currency), but said he was not on an IFR flight plan for his trip east through the front. The story of what happened on that flight was related as I heard it from Joe. You could be entirely right that he made it up. But if you're gonna make up a story to cast yourself in a good light, wouldn't you want your story to actually do so? Wouldn't you tell a story that illustrates your good judgement as well as your great skill? That Joe actually believes the story he told makes him look good speaks volumes about his attitude, no?

Posted by: Mark Sletten | May 27, 2010 8:26 AM    Report this comment

As regards the crosswind landing, I believe all the info you need is there. There is a single piece of ashpault which makes for two runways; a direct crosswind for one is a crosswind for the other. The only other pertinent piece of info I think might clarify is that Joe owns a low-wing, single, retract -- not the kind of aircraft typcially landed in a crab.

tom connor said: 'mark Sletten's article is so vague that it could apply to any of us somewhere in any flying career over 50 hours of solo and rusty crosswind skills.'

The two representative incidents related in my article are but two of many. If I experienced either I would seriously consider grounding myself until I could hire an instructor to knock of some of the rust.

Joe believes his skill was up to the challenge.

If you cannot see the difference between these two attitudes then no amount of further explanation from me will help.

Posted by: Mark Sletten | May 27, 2010 8:26 AM    Report this comment

Lee - - - I've re-read the story several times and find no item that is a violation of the FARs. If you would point them out I'll reconsider.

Posted by: Thomas Connor | May 27, 2010 8:27 AM    Report this comment

Dave Miller said: 'Not admitting to wanting to be a snitch is no different than Joe avoiding his demons.'

You assume much Dave. This isn't cops and robbers, and I'm not four years old. My desire to avoid derogatory labels simply isn't a consideration; if I believed for one second a call to the FAA would prevent injury or bent metal I would make it.

As it is, I'm not conviced it would do any good, and it might even be detrimental. If, for example, the FAA shows up and talks with Joe, but takes no action, then Joe's behavior is reinforced in his own mind.

Trust me when I say I share your libertarian values. ALL problems should be handled at the lowest level, and without the government involved if at all possible. As I mentioned, this was (and is) my motivation in writing a guest blog -- to seek suggestions from fellow pilots on how they might approach such a situation.

Posted by: Mark Sletten | May 27, 2010 8:47 AM    Report this comment

I dunno. When I was instructing instruments 15 years ago and used to take students out in challenging weather, the airport couch rats tutted-tutted that idea. I guess I was a Joe, because I smiled politely, thanked them for their concern and motored on.

In the spirit of true self-determination, we should stay out of Joe's life. If he is headed for a smoking hole, it's not our job to nanny him away from that fate any more than it was up to the couch rats to protect the hapless instrument students from me.

Aviation will survive just fine.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | May 27, 2010 8:50 AM    Report this comment

Thirty or so years ago there was an article on the back page of Flying magazine about a pilot named "Martin" who bought a big twin when he wasn't even fully qualified for a high performance retractible landing gear single. The author of that article wrote: "Martin, I've seen you take off in that big twin with the engines roaring away. Do you realize that if either of those engines were to so much as cough just then, that machine would twist itself out of your hands? " The article recommended that Martin find himself an instructor who would drag him and his airplane to hell and back, but would teach him the rewards of being worthy of his aircraft. Perhaps Flying should republish that article.

Posted by: Alex Kovnat | May 27, 2010 8:52 AM    Report this comment

This thread reminded me of a situation that occurred at the airport in Mansfield, MA in 1997. (as related to me by an FBO employee and verified on the NTSB site) On a late December morning this guy shows up with his wife & kid to fly down to FL in a 172 and does a crummy job at clearing snow & ice off the airplane (essentially, he didn't). The pilot was told the airport was NOTAM'd closed for snow & ice removal but he still decides to launch anyway. The plane takes off, climbs to 300ft and then noses over in a left hand turn and comes down. The FAA found 1/2" of ice on the wings and the fuel caps were completely encased in ice. The pilot was seriously injured and one of his passengers had minor injuries.

Here's a situation where carelessness and profound stupidity almost cost the guy his life and the life of his family, never mind possible victims on the ground. At what point would/should a witness intervene?

Posted by: Will Alibrandi | May 27, 2010 8:55 AM    Report this comment

I think 'a word to the wise' may be in order- but best delivered privately- with courtesy and concern- by someone in a position of some authority- like his own CFI, the airport's FAA safety counselor or even the airport manager. The low-time private pilot in the next hangar down, his demeanor dripping with sanctimony and self-important censure? The guys all ganged up on him on how THEY wouldn't have done that, when it's obvious they've done equally stupid things? Maybe not so much- those approaches tend to get peoples' backs up, and the defensiveness engendered tends to give rise to excuses rather than self-examination. Macho Joe may not admit it to his airport buddies, but he may have scared himself a time or two, learned a lesson, even, maybe, and there's a chance he won't make that particular mistake again. Maybe the best thing the airport gang could do would be to shake their heads with a worried and knowing look at each other, say nothing, and wander off, when another 'there I was' story seems imminent. Editorial comment is sometimes very effective when nothing is said at all.

Posted by: AMELIA REIHELD | May 27, 2010 9:07 AM    Report this comment

""Which brings us to my quandary: What do I do about Joe?""

Maybe print out a copy of this blog and give it to him?

Posted by: Thomas Connor | May 27, 2010 9:47 AM    Report this comment

I can now rest my case.

Seem we have found that the Joe's is really not that bad after all cause they're a little misunderstood

Posted by: Bruce Savage | May 27, 2010 11:00 AM    Report this comment

For starters,
91.13: Careless or reckless operation
“He wound up in the grass after smacking two runway edge lights and adding a few dents to the bottom of the left wing and flap.”
“the compass was knocked from its mount on the glareshield”
May not convict, but sure would indict.
91.103: Preflight actions, including weather reports and forecasts
“When asked before departure by another pilot if he had checked the weather, Joe said he planned to get up to 11,000 or 12,000 feet and go over the top of any rain”
91.173: IFR requires a clearance from ATC
“At one point, Joe said he lost 4000 feet in an un-commanded descent--in the clouds”
91.183: Requirement to report unforecast weather and any other info related to safety of the flight.
While no narrative suggests he didn’t, it is a legitimate question for Joe from the FAA, as are all the other Parts above.
Again, may not convict, but the preponderance of evidence here would surely indict. (continued)

Posted by: Lee Conner | May 27, 2010 11:37 AM    Report this comment

And I think the author’s obligation to Joe’s family as well as his own extends to making his concerns known to the authorities in any of the three ways described above and then let the FAA determine whether he is in violation, and if so, whether administrative action (most likely, and would consist of an additional training requirement) or certificate action is appropriate.
While all of these can be perhaps explained away, you do GA, Joe and a host of his friends and family a disservice not acting on what you know to be true. Protecting Joe’s right to stupid ended with Joe’s inadvertent destruction of airport property. Exercising your obligation may protect the innocent bystander. Not ‘butting in’ appears headed for a much worse outcome.

Posted by: Lee Conner | May 27, 2010 11:39 AM    Report this comment

Some years back, a partnership with several members took in another pilot. This charming pilot was hot, and knew it, and so did everybody else within earshot. Several instances of poor judgment, perhaps ascribable to lack of experience with the airplane, led to a fruitless informal conversation with the most experienced- and tactful- member of the partnership. Some weeks later, the man landed with a load of ice- at least half an inch of mixed- on his wings, and the lineman expressed appalled concern. The hotshot answered snidely that the lineman's job was to pump the gas, and his was to fly the airplane. That did it. The lineman notified the other owners, and one of the partners called him that very afternoon, and told him that a check was in the mail for his share of the plane, that he was going to kill himself and his unsuspecting family, and they didn't want it to happen in that airplane. Hotshot cashed the check and returned his key.

What you do if it's the guy next door in his own airplane? That's harder, because, 1, you, as a concerned bystander, have no leverage, 2, the FAA is limited in what they can do, and 3, some people are impervious to entreaties. They already know it all, and think you obviously don't understand the situation. So what then? Warn others not to ever fly with him? If it's his family, and they listen, that might work. Maybe tell them that Darwin's Law is harsh, but sometimes it's the only answer. Best they not be in the same airplane...

Posted by: AMELIA REIHELD | May 27, 2010 12:11 PM    Report this comment

>Some weeks later, the man landed with a load
>of ice- at least half an inch of mixed- on
>his wings, and the lineman expressed appalled

This year we observe the 75th birthday of the DC-3. There's going to be a gathering of surviving specimens of that aircraft at Oshkosh this year to observe said anniversary. Based on what Amelia tells us about some guy landing safely in spite of half an inch of ice, I can't help but wonder if, over the years DC-3's may have landed numerous times with ice on their wings and nobody reported it.

Posted by: Alex Kovnat | May 27, 2010 12:29 PM    Report this comment

Amelia, it seems the hotshot you spoke of was a lot luckier than the guy I mentioned that crashed at Mansfield back in '97. (at least his time hadn't yet come) Personally, I'd have a tough time knowing I never spoke up if I saw someone do something dangerous which led to an accident. I don't think my being a CFI would hold much weight but I'd try to tactfully explain the danger of their actions.

Posted by: Will Alibrandi | May 27, 2010 12:32 PM    Report this comment

Most all of us know or know of a Joe. I worked at an airport where I knew a pilot who bragged often about his acro exploits in his RV-3. His airplane was not modified with the spar upgrade that Vans suggested and was therefore not to be performing aerobatics. He was aware of this, as his mechanic indicated to the NTSB after he lost a wing on a high-speed fly-by and pull-up right over the airfield, killing him. He was a structural engineering professor.

It was his individual right to fly his airplane as he wished. His wife and young son may argue that point, justifiably. Flying recklessly is a personal choice and I would only feel right about addressing it to somebody who I personally knew very closely and trusted. It's a lot like smoking. I can't stand it when people tell folks to stop smoking, but if it were a trusted friend, I might bring it up in a respectful manner. The difference is that you don't take passengers smoking.

Posted by: Ryan Lunde | May 27, 2010 2:57 PM    Report this comment

Lee - I'd venture that if you give me 15 minutes to look over your airplane until I find something unairworthy - even if you have a brand spankin' new Cessna, Cirrus, or whatever. I think it would be a better approach for me to discuss it with you on a one-to-one basis than to just call the feds and report you for flying an illegal airplane. But, for that matter, you aren't going to have me inspect your airplane more than likely so it's none of my business. Just a thought.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | May 27, 2010 6:39 PM    Report this comment

If you were a Part 65 certificated inspector performing a Part 91 required inspection, and you provided me a list of discrepancies per Part 43 and I ignored any item on your list that indeed either prevented my aircraft from complying with its type design or created a condition not safe for operation, then as soon as you had knowledge of my having operated that aircraft without correction, you would be obligated in the same manner as the author; my being held to the letter of the law is an obligation of mine.
My proper and just correction is up to the FAA. They cannot do their job without our help.
The author, and others before him, have tried gentle persuasion. My missing Garmin FMS is not what the author is speaking to.

Posted by: Lee Conner | May 27, 2010 9:31 PM    Report this comment

Reminds me of the time I sold my Piper Seneca to a Florida Flight school/FBO. The instructor who was flying the plane from MA to FL was filing IFR, and was asking me how fast the plane cruised at. With the AFM I gave him (and attached performance charts), and with the requirements for "familiarizing himself with all available information", I thought he should have been able to tell me.!!!

Posted by: Thomas Lembessis | May 27, 2010 10:00 PM    Report this comment

""Which brings us to my quandary: What do I do about Joe?""

Maybe print out a copy of this blog and give it to him?

Posted by: Thomas Connor | May 27, 2010 10:53 PM    Report this comment

I will always kick myself for not talking to a pilot with a new Kitfox homebuilt. A group of us watched him for several days landing and each one was a near disaster. I only had 200 or so hours in tail draggers and others had over a 1000. No one would go out to the tie down area and talk to him about it. Kinda felt like we'd be telling him how to fly. He fueled up at his tie down, so he never came to the FBO, thereby giving someone a chance to talk with him. After a week of this, he finally rolled it into a ball! He walked away with minor scratches, thankfully.
Should we have said something? You're darned right. Maybe we could have saved him the anguish of crashing. It was obvious (to us) that he couldn't handle a tail dragger.

It has been mentioned that maybe "Joe" should have been held on the ground. It's a hard call to make at the specific time. In 20/20 hindsight it is obvious, but not at the moment.

In the 50's, an airport manager tried to hold a pilot on the ground, but couldn't. The pilot got vertigo and yoyo'd into the ground. I heard it, but who would believe a 6 year old kid? They found most of him the next day.

Posted by: Keith Blair | May 27, 2010 11:29 PM    Report this comment

From re-reading the unfairly critical blog about 'Joe' to some of the 'we know what's best for you, we're here to save you from yourself!' posts, I'm reminded of the beautiful, haunting song by Joni Mitchell, "Amelia", and, though all the lyrics are brilliant, the line "I've spent my whole life in clouds at icy altitudes,... looking down on everything.." is just uncanningly apropos to me for this discussion.

If any of you mentioned above (and you know who you are... well, don't want to assume you know, let's just say at least I know :)) are watching and scrutinizing me when, in the name of 'safety' or some other 'helping' excuse, you catch me having delicious fun with my homebuilt, driving my seatbelt-less, airbag-less vintage Beetle too fast, or doing some politically incorrect activity you do not approve of, better be ready to rumble. I don't always use a radio, and sometimes fly a little like the Flying Farmer of airshows past( I wish), so if you want a one-on-one in the airport cafe about your 'concerns' for me, be ready, and good luck...I'll even buy the coffee.

So hang in there, Joe! Keep the tail pointed up and ignore the Perfect Ones, and you and me and GA will be just fine.

Posted by: David Miller | May 28, 2010 1:39 AM    Report this comment

The more we "police" ourselves and keep each other honest and safe, the less outsiders will feel the need to impose extra rules on us.

The fewer f***ups like Joe we have among our ranks, the less likely we are to get hammered with more rules, requirements, and regulations.

Do whatever you can to keep him alive and keep him safe. Unfortunately I don't have any suggestions for you on that one.

Posted by: Alex Rudy | May 28, 2010 8:05 AM    Report this comment

The more we "police" ourselves and keep each other honest and safe, the less outsiders will feel the need to impose extra rules on us.

The fewer f***ups like Joe we have among our ranks, the less likely we are to get hammered with more rules, requirements, and regulations.

Do whatever you can to keep him alive and keep him safe. Unfortunately I don't have any suggestions for you on that one.

Posted by: Alex Rudy | May 28, 2010 8:06 AM    Report this comment

"Josh, If you were a Part 65 certificated inspector performing a Part 91 required inspection . . . " Actually - I am. To preface this, I'd like to direct you to 91.403(a) which states that the owner/operator of an aircraft is the one primarily responsible for the airworthiness of that aircraft. Now, Lee, if you bring an aircraft to me and I find that you have exceeded, say, the hour requirement on a recurring AD, first off, you are just as much of a violator as Joe. How about a wrinkled firewall you know nothing about - a FSDO had a field day with that one some years back? How would you like me to handle that? It does not become a violation only when you ignore a list of discrepancies I gave you - the issue is that you flew the unairworthy aircraft to me in the first place. And according to some inspectors I should call you in. A second point, you stated in your post that I had to be authorized by the Feds to determine if your aircraft was airworthy - only then should I call you in. That's my point exactly with Joe - leave judgment to be passed by those that are qualified and involved in all but the most extreme cases, in my book that would be his CFI, pilot examiner, aircraft owner, FAA, or law enforcement. Most of the airport bum's aren't qualified to make that determination (although I though I was back when I had 100 hours) On a personal note, I sure as heck wouldn't let anyone I know and love ride with Joe.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | May 28, 2010 8:40 AM    Report this comment

I find the "GA will be just fine" attitude a bit concerning because it seems (to me) to give license to pilots to do what they want regardless of consequence. The flying community is for the most part a close-knit bunch and we're obligated to be self-policing lest the federales step in and deal with situations in their often heavy-handed manner. If enough pilots do dumb things, legislation is often the result.

During the 15 years I've been flying I've seen lots of "stupid pilot tricks" that didn't and probably wouldn't result in an accident, (even done one or two myself admittedly) but I'm more concerned with the dopey things pilots do that could result in a bad ending, not just for them and their passengers but for people on the ground. These are the times when I'll step out of my own comfort zone and tactfully pull the guy aside and say something. Aside from those serious situations I'll keep my mouth shut.

Posted by: Will Alibrandi | May 28, 2010 8:57 AM    Report this comment

Several years ago a pilot occassionally came into our airport while visiting family in the area. After seeing him fly a number of times and talking to him it was obvious he was a hotshot who loved to fly very low and fast and impress everyone. Several times I came very close to talking to him about his flying. One day I watched him load his nephew and a couple of the nephew's friends into his Mooney and blast off. An hour later we got the call that his plane was in the river and all aboard were dead.

Posted by: Richard Montague | May 28, 2010 9:20 AM    Report this comment

Richard, what kept you from having a chat with that guy?

Posted by: Will Alibrandi | May 28, 2010 10:23 AM    Report this comment

I’m an IA pilot. Can’t pull rank. .
First, 91.403 violations require the owner/operator’s knowledge to be actionable. Repeated opinions from the FAA office of chief counsel have made clear an owner is not in violation of 91.403 for letting his aircraft wither at the tiedown. Part 91 is an operations rule. No operation or flight, no violation.
Second, my inadvertent exceedance of an AD time limit would be handled by a NASA ARC 277D if I discovered it before the Feds, and I would certainly thank you for doing the job I hired you for. You say, such transgression makes me “..as much a violator as Joe.” I think not. Apples and oranges.
Third, wrinkled firewall I knew nothing about? See #1 and #2 above. No knowledge and no operation after learning of required maintenance, no violation. Self-reporting before the Feds find out provides double indemnity against any administrative or certificate action. If I don’t self-report, and fly away without having the firewall repaired, then yes, you have an obligation to report me, and I have an obligation to respond to the LOI that will follow.

Posted by: Lee Conner | May 28, 2010 1:23 PM    Report this comment

You go on to say, “A second point, you stated in your post that I had to be authorized by the Feds to determine if your aircraft was airworthy - only then should I call you in.” Not sure where you saw this, but to your point, that Joe should be left to the pros, I quote you further, “…-leave judgment to be passed by those that are qualified and involved in all but the most extreme cases”. As I read the article, no doubt remains Joe is an extreme case, and from the author’s subsequent posts, he’s not the 100 hr bum you claim to have been. I could not agree more. Let the FAA decide if Joe is in violation. A very short conversation with a FSDO ops ASI will get his attention, and the training he obviously needs.
In any event, I am curious that you can personally acknowledge Joe is unsafe enough to let any one you know ride with him, but professionally feel no obligation to participate in protecting the public at large from this guy. I can see why you might shy away from reporting the wrinkled firewall to the Feds, but a pilot you repeatedly see making bad choice after bad choice, overtly excusing bad pilotage with bravado accounts of superior skills having saved his skin?
On a final note, this blog has continued for three days, with multiple accounts of folks who write they should have done something, wish they had done something, or did nothing and ultimately really bad things happened. What is the worst that can happen in each case?

Posted by: Lee Conner | May 28, 2010 1:27 PM    Report this comment

I'm referring to the part where you said that "If I were a part 65 certificated inspector . . . " So I've got to be an A&P to tell you where you've not properly maintained your airplane, but any pilot can tell another how to fly? Huh?

I've seen the conversation about an unsafe pilot go down a couple of times with an ASI, and you know what, until they can prove a FAR violation not much happpens.

I'd hold the professionals responsible for Joe's continued ability to fly. One of two things happened - either he had a really good day on his flight review or someone signed off a marginal pilot. I've done flight reviews for guys like Joe, and when I refuse to sign them off they blame me for it. You know what, though. They aren't flying anymore - at least not on my ticket. I might not eradicate every unsafe pilot in the world this way, but at least I'm doing my job.

I still think the airport bums can be awful tough and unfair on a person. I've been on the receiving end of these conversations too - and usually the complainer is clueless (and sometimes as dangerous as Joe in the air) Until you are in the cockpit with the guy, you really don't know. Still wouldn't take a chance with a friend or family member though.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | May 28, 2010 1:47 PM    Report this comment

'On a final note, this blog has continued for three days, with multiple accounts of folks who write they should have done something, wish they had done something, or did nothing and ultimately really bad things happened. What is the worst that can happen in each case?'

Some of us just wish to point out as kindly as possible, how it is that so many who would interfere with Joe for their own ideas about safety and other self-perceived concerns so easily and readily, are generally the same people who want the government and frankly, everyone else to leave them alone and stay out of their business?
You want the freedom to interfere on another's decisions, goals, plans or whatever from your self-perceived possibilities of accident or failure, all in the name of pointing out 'Joe's' misuse of his own freedom? Really?

Citing examples of crashes because you did not speak up is delusional. Thinking one would have such a glorious, positive-only influence on another is nothing short of self-deception, let alone flat wrong. MYOB as we used to say.

Posted by: David Miller | May 28, 2010 2:05 PM    Report this comment

My 'if-and-then' hypothetical provided what I thought was a obvious obligation on your part to report, an attempt to distill the analogy to its core. The author's question was, should he report Joe and whether he had an obligation to do so. My hypothetical established what I feel would clearly identify a situation where you were obligated to report me. Let me try again.
Would you agree that Part 13 says any one who is aware of an FAR violation should report it?

Posted by: Lee Conner | May 28, 2010 2:08 PM    Report this comment

When Joe 'loses 4000' in IMC' over my house, uses my airport, brings discredit on my profession, damamges my airport, it is my business.
Here's the rub. I'm not one of those "same people who want the government and frankly, everyone else to leave them alone and stay out of their business".
And if you are a certificated pilot, you have acknowledged the same: Your certificate is a privilege contingent on your adhering to a necessarily strict set of rules that pose only slightly greater likeness to democracy than Francisco Franco. This is the way must be, and our safety record would be that of a third world country if every one operated under their MYOB banner.
Whether to report or not seems to be a bit of a 'Pascal's wager'. What have you got to lose?
Delusional? self-deception? flat wrong? Easy, big fella.

Posted by: Lee Conner | May 28, 2010 2:24 PM    Report this comment

Lee, to be clear, I never asked if I should report Joe. The incidents described in the article pretty clearly (I thought) illustrate Joe's lack of knowledge, poor airmanship and dangerous belief in his invincibility -- a belief which is reinforced every time he lives through another incident.

Those of us who believe Joe's fate is sealed may be a bunch of old fuddy duddies and airport bums, but among us you will find a wide range of experience and backgrounds including military, corporate and major airline pilots, and some with literally tens of thousand of hours instructing primary flight training. While those qualifications don't negate the possibility we might be wrong, they certainly make for a group whose united voice deserves creedence.


Posted by: Mark Sletten | May 28, 2010 2:35 PM    Report this comment

I cannot stress enough that I wrote this article not to seek approval for a decision already made to report Joe, but because I am a fellow pilot and human being who feels an obligation to help someone I believe is in danger. I realize some believe a professed desire to help has been used by many in history as an excuse to control others. I believe this to a certain extent myself. But I know myself and my motives; I have no desire to tell Joe how, when or why he can fly his plane, only to prevent what I (and others' whose opinions I trust) believe to be a coming disaster. The only way to do that, in my opinion, is to change Joe's attitude.

I get that some believe I should report Joe to the FAA (in the interest of regulatory obligations) and others do not. I truly could care less about my responsibility as regards the regulations; my one and only concern is what I can do that might help Joe. It seems to me unless the FAA has the evidence it needs to ground Joe until he obtains further training, then reporting him won't help.

In my experience, peer pressure is the most effective attitude adjustment tool, and one that seems completely ineffective with Joe.

While I hate to admit it, it seems Joe's fate -- as it always was -- remains in his own hands. I guess it's like watching a friend struggle with a bad marriage. You want to help, but know anything you say or do will just make it worse. All you can do is watch and hope for the best...

Posted by: Mark Sletten | May 28, 2010 2:51 PM    Report this comment

A small, but important correction: I truly could care less about my responsibility to report Joe as regards the regulations in this matter.

Posted by: Mark Sletten | May 28, 2010 2:56 PM    Report this comment

Lee..You're right, I lost my balance there for a minute. Sometimes I get writing and get a bit too emphatic with absolutes; acknowledged, my bad. It's a great subject that easily went from flying specifics of Joe's behavior/decisions/skills to the broader, generalized concept of lines drawn every which way by each person of personal freedom to me. I'll go with Mark and watch and hope for the best with Joe - leaving his violations to the authorities - but if he's a no-show at my airport, I'll breathe a relieving sigh.

Posted by: David Miller | May 28, 2010 4:40 PM    Report this comment

Mark, your dilemma was obviously akin to knowing a danger exists that the inevitable victim neither sees or even allows possible. And your concern came through as genuine, with no 'dog whistle' of vigilantism.
That said, if you feel so strongly, waiting until you have red-handed goods to report him for his own good (sounds bad, but you know how I mean it), could be one incident too late.
Your concern for the lazy Fed dismissing your report as unenforceable could be tolerance, but a definition of tolerance that I have heard before is, "nine parts apathy and one part brotherly love".
The mechanism to insure your concern is not ignored exists for this very reason.

Posted by: Lee Conner | May 28, 2010 5:45 PM    Report this comment

Lee, 14CFR13.1 states that you "should" report a violation. This in FAA legaleze means that it is recommended, but not required. 14CFR13.2 states that the report will be reviewed and investigated to determine further action. I have no obligation to report violations to the FAA. A safety inspector isn't lazy for not pursuing a case with no evidence - that's the way our legal system is supposed to work. And rest assured - based upon the info above - you have no evidence except some busted runway lights and I don't think you'll find a FAR that explicitly prohibits mowing down runway lights!

You do have a lot to lose by making reports. A lot of folks in the aviation community (and I'd hazard to guess a lot in the FAA) are a lot like my second grade teacher. You earn a reputation as a tattle-tale and now no one wants anything to do with you! And you likely will alienate Joe - he won't listen to you anyhow - he's a superpilot! I'd go so far as to say, if you've got hard evidence that Joe is violating regs - go ahead and report him. Sounds like 10 hours of remedial training would be good for him. Just understand the consequences to both of you and make really sure it's warranted.

If you really want to make a difference, why not join the FAAST team and try to proactively encourage these guys to operate safely. At least there, in a non-confrontational manner perhaps Joe will see the error of his ways and repent.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | May 28, 2010 8:15 PM    Report this comment

Good on you! I made you go read up. No doubt you also read 13.5 that provides a means for a formal complaint, to include a response in writing from the FAA as to their findings. The ASI's job is to investigate; let them do thier job.
This covers two of the three most direct ways of reporting an unsafe pilot or plane. For extra credit, what is the third? (hint: Both 2 and 3 require the FAA to act in a structured, tracked procedure with no room to dismiss without a finding).
As for the FAR protecting taxiway lights, you've got me there! Joe would only need to craft a defense against 18 USC 32, which makes criminal a broad range of acts against aircraft, airports, navaids, etc..
And tattletale? No one will play with me? When I exercise my designated privileges, it sure isn't with the status of my popularity in mind. I'd rather have a mad Joe on my hands than a dead Joe on my conscience any day.
"Should" means just that. You should. FYI, the FAA has already started changing the meaning of 'should'. As of 4/15/2011, for Part 21, the word 'should' is changed to 'must'. Look it up. No doubt other Parts will soon follow suit. Do we really need a 'must' mandate to do what our heart and head tells us we 'should' do?

Posted by: Lee Conner | May 28, 2010 10:44 PM    Report this comment

You guys can split hairs to the atomic level - I'm not getting into that. But Lee, you might want to re-think the statement of prefering a mad Joe over a dead-from-his-own-actions Joe. One's conscience can be enlightened and changed when free of self-imposed guilt, but I can think of dozens of scenarios of mayhem and madness from one angry guy affecting god-knows how many others that you wouldn't want any part of, and all because as some of us have stated, you chose to report/butt-in/tattle or 'help' Joe. Just a thought...don't want to argue.

Posted by: David Miller | May 28, 2010 11:15 PM    Report this comment

No, we don't,but it's what we are going to get unless the FAA and Government is brought to heel! They want the "must" in there so you too can be violated. I flew following the rules laid down by the FAA, but a lot of my flying was done to peer pressure. Uncontrolled airstrips were my "playground" and the rules are very vague in the FAA's book. Basically, unless an inspector witnessed a violation himself, not much could be done. Peer pressure ruled in most cases. In Joes case, I think his peers could save him from himself, not the FAA.

Posted by: Keith Blair | May 29, 2010 1:30 AM    Report this comment

Wow... talk about getting a discussion started! Here is the deal. Forget the regs, if he gets busted, he'll get busted, but he ain't gunna get busted because you called the FSDO. There are two options:
1) All "Joe's" should be pulled aside for a talkin'-to and lectured on their 'dangerous actions.'
2) Ignore the problem and hope it goes away.

But, Under #1, where do you draw the line? And what are the qualifications to do so? When I was a 300 hour VFR pilot and saw a guy arrive in a mountain airport in his known-ice 210 over the Sierras at night in inclement weather, I was appalled. Today, with much more experience and better equipment, I would do the same (albeit in a twin.)

Was I qualified to pull that pilot aside when I had 300 hours? No. Am I qualified to pull him aside now? No. Should I pull him aside and lecture him on it? No.

If we start telling pilots to lecture other pilots when they are operating outside of our own personal limits, we'll have pilots lecturing other pilots all over the country. Any time we land, when we see someone coming from the terminal we'll turn around and run. Where is the fun in that?


Posted by: VILIS OSITIS | May 29, 2010 3:55 AM    Report this comment


But there is another option. Joe is a pilot and loves to fly. Let's invite Joe over for dinner or out for a beer and lets talk airplanes. If he really is reckless, swapping stories with other pilots might give him a sense of mortality. If he really is good, it sounds like he has some great stories to tell. Even if he doesn't learn anything from his own mistakes, at least we have the opportunity to do so. Either way, everyone wins.

But for Heaven's sake, lets not start telling pilots to lecture one another just because one pilot is doing something another might not. Once you start doing this, where do you stop?


Posted by: VILIS OSITIS | May 29, 2010 3:56 AM    Report this comment

How about applying the drunk driver test? Everyone agrees that society has an interest in aggressively removing drunk drivers from the road, so we tolerate--even encourage--aggressive pre-event intervention. We don't say that the individual's right to cause alcohol-induced mayhem trumps our collective interest in reducing alcohol-related accidents.

Do we as group believe the same thing about pilots whose competence is in question or who make risk judgments that don't match our own risk models?

No, we don't. It fails the test. So let's not turn into a bunch of whining Aunt Janes. Man up here and let the guy alone, unless you think your intervention is absolutely necessary and will be effective. We all seem to agree no one has a strategy for that.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | May 29, 2010 6:59 AM    Report this comment

Very well said Vilis. Lee, I don't think there is anything I can say to change your thinking, but I guess we'll have to agree to disagree. Nuff said by me.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | May 29, 2010 7:48 AM    Report this comment

We used to hangar the planes at a "FAA compound" where the MO was "call the Federales" every time some "Joe" broke the FARs (real or imagined). No one talked to others as intimidation was rampant... when the rumor-mill started about me working on my own plane (with the FSDO's knowledge) I hired an attorney... just in case. Not the aviation kind but one with civil litigation skills who was a pilot. The end result was 2 AP/IAs lost their license, one Repair Station out-of-business and one Repair Station owner in prison. I never called the FAA, just let Darwinian theory prevail. This "should" to "must" conversion just smacks of more Socialism we can ill afford. What goes around can come around...

Posted by: David Spencer | May 29, 2010 11:05 AM    Report this comment

Seems like there are two camps here those wishing to give the Joe a hiding he will never to forget and those who wish to be left alone. Interesting we have the same problem in every aspect of our lives from our and others children to old people.

I was asked if I ever encroached youngsters to the flying fraternity. Yes I had a great passion for flying and talked to anyone who would listen. Many tried and many got their licence. The point is how many still have their licences? And how many were put off by those people eager to tell them they were a danger to themselves and others that they couldn’t fly and should stop.

I also said that I would take farmers home and land on their makeshift runways. That experience went with me to the Air Force and I was used to airlift wounded from makeshift runways whilst under fire and usually late at night. Can you guess how many so call expert civilian pilots would tell me I’m a nutcase and a danger to myself and those around me and shouldn’t be flying? If they only knew how many lives were saved by our unit. But the worst part is that I could not be a jet jockey because my Major said I would not exceed my limits.

Everybody flying will at some point in their career catch the eye of the authorities and that is when they will be scrutinized to the enth degree so for those who wish to interfere why don’t you change jobs and become FAA Inspectors I’m sure you will do well in your new career.

Posted by: Bruce Savage | May 30, 2010 6:44 AM    Report this comment

Mistake the encroached should be "encouraged"

Posted by: Bruce Savage | May 30, 2010 6:48 AM    Report this comment

I've known a few Joe's already despite being relatively young. I've said and done what I could out of concern and probably also to salve my conscience. I think our duty of care extends that far. I used to shake one Joe's hand every time I saw him at work and when he asked me one day, I told him it was in case he killed himself that day. When he realized I was not joking, I could tell that it gave him pause to think.
I reckon that there is always a way to get through to people if you're smart enough. Maybe it involves extending the hand of friendship. Often risk takers are sad or lonely and need some extra excitement.

Posted by: John Hogan | May 31, 2010 9:25 AM    Report this comment

Actually, the FAA has (believe it or not) anticipated this issue, and has tools to (at least partially) deal with it. The FAA Safety Team includes both FAA Managers who sit in local FSDOs and Non-FAA "Representatives" who volunteer their time.

As a rep, I occasionally get such a call. Instead of violating the pilot (which may or may not be possible or even helpful), the FAAST team can counsel the pilot, put on "targeted" seminars, and otherwise work to reduce the problem.

Yes, it takes a lot of work, but it's worth it. Please talk to your local rep or your local FTM!

Posted by: Robert Montgomery | June 2, 2010 11:41 AM    Report this comment

Robert,since it appears few know that 'local reps' exist or what an FTM is, you might describe how to know that and define the acronym.

Posted by: Thomas Connor | June 17, 2010 1:52 PM    Report this comment

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