How many times have you found yourself at the airport looking at another pilot and thinking, “Man, that guy is an idiot!“? Well, it happened to me the other day and the good news is we have still more tales of the experiences of Dick to share with you.
This one comes from a friend, who is a recently minted pilot in Ohio. By recently minted, I mean that he got his license within the past year, so all his instructors’ directions and admonishments are still very clear in his mind. He is also someone who works in a regulated industry, so he follows the FARs and makes sure that his flights are both safe and conservative. With that said, he has little patience for pilots like Dick, since they don’t generally follow the rules, and in doing so, put all of our flying freedoms at risk!
What Happened… My friend watched some of the stupidest flying he’d seen in awhile. “There were a group of people giving rides to physically challenged kids while I was flying,” he recounted, noting that while he was on an announced short final, the pilot giving the rides announced that he was back-taxiing on the runway. After our new pilot again informed Unicom that he was on final, Dick said, “Uh, okay, I’ll wait.”
“I came to a full stop and started to back-taxi to the end of the runway,” my friend told me. At the time, he told Dick that he would wait until Dick got all the way down to the end of the runway before he departed. Dick wouldn’t have any of that, and announced “I’m just going to blast off from here.” At that point, Dick took off from the last 1500 feet of the runway, made a 45-degree turn about 50 feet above the ground, and flew over the hanger so people could take pictures of the plane.
Reflecting on the events of the day, my friend the new pilot had a good question: “So tell me: How many people have exactly the wrong idea about general aviation today because of the actions of a single moron?” How many indeed – one person with this impression is too many!
THINK ABOUT IT: Do you fly safely and adhere to the rules, or do you bend them for the sake of a photo op? Do you use the whole runway available to you, or do you take shortcuts, trying a mid-field takeoff, or worse yet, a short field takeoff from 1500 feet of remaining runway.
WHAT COULD GO WRONG ON THIS SHORT FIELD TAKEOFF?
- The engine could falter or sputter due to bad fuel.
- The winds could suddenly shift, causing a critical loss of lift when it’s most needed.
- The engine might have a bad spark plug, and be underperforming during the takeoff, causing an off-field landing.
- Murphy might decide to have low tire pressure in all the mains, causing the plane to accelerate slower than expected.
1500 feet of runway disappears pretty quickly. Why risk an accident, and the impressions it will leave with the local media?
WITH THAT SAID, IT GETS WORSE. As luck would have it, by coincidence, both Dick and the new pilot returned to the airport at about the same time. “While I was making the turn onto the 45 to enter the downwind leg as outlined in the Airmans Information Manual, this cretin announces that he is on a 4-mile downwind for the same runway,” he recalled. “Since I couldn’t see him, I held about 3 miles from the airport until Dick called out that he was on final.”
A cretin is defined in my old Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “a person with a marked mental deficiency.” Dick was really playing the odds today and meeting the qualifications to be considered a cretin. He also got lucky, and didn’t run into the pilot who he had ticked off with his flying antics. “I didn’t see him on the ground when I landed, but if I had I would’ve told him exactly what I thought of his actions,” our new pilot said. “If somebody makes a stupid mistake (and I’ve made few), that’s one thing, but to deliberately behave like he did is inexcusable.”
PUBLIC SERVICE IS GOOD, BUT SO IS BEST BEHAVIOR.
I’m sure Dick was trying to do something to “give something back to the community,” when he was giving airplane rides to physically challenged kids. His intentions were good, but his behavior reflected poorly on the pilot community. Keep the following points in mind when you are doing “public service“ flying:
- Stick to the regulations, whether in the FAR or the AIM.
- Use the entire available length of runway.
- Maintain safe distance between yourself and other traffic.
- Don’t “hot dog” in the traffic pattern, or even on your flight (remember – the Technicolor yawn you avoid in the cockpit will be worth following the rules!)
By keeping your plane in top shape, and following the regulations, you will become a good example to other pilots and the general public, showing them how safe and convenient transportation by small plane can be. Given the current regulatory environment, this is the only safe bet to keep our flying freedoms from being curtailed any further than they already have!