I'm at work.
I'm bummed enough that I almost called in sick tonight, although I'm not sick...
Well, not physically sick anyway. I'm heartsick.
Let me draw your attention to this post from a few months ago over at John's blog. Read the post. Read the comments... all of 'em.
On more than one occasion I have helped take car keys away from someone too drunk to get into a car and drive. One of those instances literally resulted in one friend striking another in the face, knocking him off his feet in order to let him know we were serious that he would not drive away while we watched.
In the morning, ALL of these drunks were glad we did what we did.
But this is different...
When you allow someone to get into your aircraft as a passenger, you are, in effect, establishing a contract with them. This taken-for-granted contract says, "If you get into my flying machine, I promise to deliver you safely back to the ground."
As pilots, we are telling our passengers, "Yes, even if something goes terribly wrong with the machine, or if the weather does something unforeseen, I am trained and capable of handling the situation."
But like the pilot-subject of John's post, we've all seen pilots we knew in our heart were unsafe. Most pilots have pretty big egos. When does the big ego become a problem, and what can the rest of us do about it?
Some months ago I got into the rear seat, as a passenger, of an aircraft piloted by a guy I felt was competent. Two aircraft were flying to a restaurant fifteen minutes away for dinner. We took off and I was immediately uncomfortable... this pilot was flying fast and low-level...
at treetop level for the majority of the flight. Five minutes into the flight I said, "Hey ********, I am REALLY not comfortable flying this low!" My friend chuckled and said, "you're not, huh?", and continued flying fast and low until we arrived at our destination. I flew home in the other aircraft and never flew with the guy again.
Now he's had a terrible accident, and for his benefit and mine I won't share details with you, except to say HE survived.
SHOULD I have done more to get this guy's attention? To illustrate to this guy the risks he was taking could be disastrous?
This guy knew me, respected my opinion, and in fact might never have become a pilot had I not trained him for a short time. Yet when I cautioned him about his risky attitude, he laughed and shrugged it off. If I had made a bigger deal of it, he would have been angry and I likely would have lost his friendship... and it's doubtful his behavior would have changed anyway.
But now his life and behavior are changed forever.
And my heart aches.
What should I have done? Is there anything we can do to prevent such accidents, short of hitting someone and knocking them off their feet?