Short Final: Consider This


The aviation safety culture can be brutal and unforgiving. Consider this sage advice from Angus Kydd, one of the instructors at my home-base airport, years ago. Chatting with a group of students about risk-taking, he said, “Before you do something stupid up there, think of what everyone sitting down here will say about you after they read the accident report.”


  1. Recently I discussed this issue with my daughter in law whose response was, ” That shouldn’t happen because everybody is entitled to make a mistake.” That fits nicely with today’s social sensitivity. My response was, “If a car hits you in a pedestrian crossing, will you say, ” that’s ok everyone can make a mistake.” Maybe no worries if you do something dumb but doubt it’s ok if someone else does something dumb and it affects you ? I am still trying figure out the number of angels that can fit on the head of a pin.

    • I have no quibble with “mistakes”; we all make them, and will continue to do so. But that was not what you were talking about. Mistakes happen, and their frequency can be somewhat mitigated with training, practice, and most importantly, gently pointing them out to the unaware.

      But intentionally doing something inadvisable/risky/stupid/… is usually a attempt to gain attention (if sometimes a Darwin Award). Supposedly, adulthood is the prize for surviving adolescence. But for some, it seems to extend to the onset of gerontological symptoms. And you can’t fix Stupid.

  2. When teaching ground school or in the air, or even just hangar flying, I sometimes bring up the idea, “and what do you suppose the NTSB report will say if something, anything, goes wrong?”

  3. When a mechanic at the airline told me something I was not happy with on my airplane was OK, (“It’s legal, just take it and go”) my answer was always, “Look, if anything goes wrong, YOU will be at the hearing to explain yourself. I might not be.”

    Amazingly, that got some to change their attitude a bit.

  4. Old guy at our local airport, been flying a Cub for about as long as they’ve been making them.
    “If you’re ever in a situation where you know you’re going down and no chance of survival, you just drop your drawers and sit on the stick.”

    Me: “What?? Why?”

    Old guy: “Oh, it won’t help you none but it will sure leave them NTSB boys scratching their heads.”

    Sage advice I’ve remembered throughout my flying career.

  5. The NTSB lost all credibility with me when they caved to the public’s demands for action in the Colgan 3407 crash investigation. They had already decided before the wreckage had cooled that the Captain was inept and crashed a perfectly good aircraft. They ignored the fatigued First Officer’s uncommanded flap retraction at the worst possible moment which sealed their fate. Instead we got the 1500 Hour Rule which has no connection whatsoever to the crash.

    I get myself and my license home safely and legally ( which is a joint effort of many people) and everything and everyone follows from that.

  6. Colgan 3407 end rule result was brought about by the fact that the father of one of the deceased pax was hooked up to a Federal Congressmen and Senators.
    Kristin Safran, 37, of Bradford, Pa., who was traveling for business on the flight, was among those killed.
    Rep. Nick Langworthy, R-23rd District, worked with Flight 3407 families in as the U.S. House passed the FAA reauthorization bill with the 1,500-hour rule.

  7. I’m reminded of the old saying, commonly attributed to Captain Alfred Gilmer Lamplugh, of the British Aviation Insurance Group: “Aviation in itself is not inherently dangerous. But to an even greater degree than the sea, it is terribly unforgiving of any carelessness, incapacity or neglect.”