The good and bad

Memory is like the rest of the brain,a very under developed asset.I believe that everything we have done,know or have seen is filed away in our memory. Retrieving that memory is the trick. Speaking of tricks, is it true that most people think back fondly on most past experiences.? I think that is where selective memory comes into play and bless the hearts of all those folks who only remember the happy times ,or so the say. Face it ,if we didn’t have recall of the bad things in life ,we would have burned all our appendages off by now or be reliving the same failed relationships because we had not learned to make better choices.
Maybe scratch that last remark. Obviously some people are attracted to things that they have to know are just bad for themselves. How else do you explain smoking, drug use and well , so many of the other knowingly stupid things some people do to themselves ?
I’ll get down off my soap box and get back to what I set out to do in this blog. I was asked recently to list my employers hiring criteria by the administrator of a helicopter website. It started me thinking of why pilots choose to work where they do and of all the different types of flying that are performed and that I have done. I decided to write a list of the high and low points of each of the types of flying I have done over the past 34 years . I’ll spread my recollections over several blogs and I may not write about all the lowest of the low points. I don’t mind at all remembering Polar Bears playing on the ice but I don’t care if I ever have to think about bodies being carried to the surface through a hole in the ice. You get the idea.
Flight Instruction.
I have never been an ab initio instructor but I have derived great satisfaction from passing along some skills to other pilots.Nothing feels better than hearing that something you said or did helped someone.
Sometimes, unfortunately, you have to decide to cut loose or pass on a pilot for a job you helped train and access them for. When you are a chief pilot as I have been ,the marginal pilots can go either way.I have seen pilots with shaky beginnings grow and excel.I have been one of those pilots!
I have seen other pilots pushed through when they should have been given other duties or additional training. If you think it should be a simple pass/fail choice then you have not spent any time in management. While a fail makes the result seem simple, a pass with reservations is the stuff of nightmares for instructors and chief pilots.
I stop and ask myself this. Would my decision stand up to the scrutiny of investigation? Answering probably or better to the question is a go. But it still can be a very lonely decision.
I have given instruction and received instruction from some of the best. The very best instructor I ever had the benefit of knowing was also my Chief Pilot for the first commercial helicopter contract I ever flew in the United States. That was an incredible bit of good fortune. While I seldom ,if ever, mention names in my blogs ,let me go on record as saying that Pete Gillies at Western Operations was the best helicopter instructor I ever saw. There are probably only about 2,000 other pilots who share my opinion.
When you see a really good instructor ,it inspires you to not only fly better yourself but to try and copy the methods that you have seen. On that basis, Pete has helped more people than he has ever met.
My worst flight instruction event happened many years back.
I had started flying a Hiller 12E that my company had leased from a low time commercial pilot. His ownership of the aircraft was his key to getting some flight experience and I had been tasked with giving him his endorsement on the Hiller.
We butted heads from our first meeting. His flying was sloppy and his attitude seemed to be that it was his helicopter and it didn’t matter what I had to say. Looking back I know now, that his indifference and passive aggressive behavior was a cover for his insecurity.
His wife had arrived on site and she had seen me fly the helicopter prior to her husbands ham handed attempts at takeoffs and landings. I suggested we take our instruction to another location which resulted in him telling me that no further instruction would be required. He wanted to do a low level high speed fly by so his wife could get some movie footage and I vetoed the plan.
I had failed to instruct and the result was that my company sent me to another helicopter. I don’t know by what method the owner/pilot got his endorsement but he was flying it doing forestry spraying a few weeks later. According to reports,after loading his mechanic on board ,they proceeded to do a low level high speed pass up to a tree line and his spectacular pull up resulted in severe hub rock severing the rotor mast and killing both of them on impact.
I had recognized a hazardous attitude that was not merely limited to our personality differences. Two people died and while I don’t hold myself to blame I also know that I am not without blame either.
The good and bad of flight instruction. I have learned more from my failures than my successes.

About Heligypsy

Has it really been forty three years flying helicopters all over the world? I guess its time to share some stories, I hope you enjoy my adventures.
This entry was posted in Contract helicopter pilot, Flying Stories, Helicopter Pilot and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The good and bad

  1. mlanger says:

    It’s never good to read about a pilot killing himself and others, but I agree that this wasn’t your fault. Attitude is so important in flying. Too many people cop a dangerous attitude right from the start. This guy evidently did. He was setting himself up for a fall, right from the start. It’s very unfortunate that he took someone with him.

    Owner/operators are often stigmatized by the actions of other owner/operators. It makes it difficult for us to get jobs working for others. Employers have an experience like the one you describe and they assume that all owner/operators have the same dangerous attitude. It’s a constant struggle to get past that, to be taken seriously by potential employers when they realize that most of my time was built in my own aircraft without a chief pilot looking over my shoulder. What they don’t realize is that I am a chief pilot, and unlike so many others, I know exactly how the pilot under my supervision — me! — is flying.

    I hope you don’t have to deal with any other pilots like that again — no matter what their backgrounds are. There’s nothing more frustrating that seeing “an accident waiting to happen” and not being able to do anything to stop it.

  2. robertalmon says:

    Thank you for this post. I am a low time instructor and I am just starting to get comfortable with my new seat. Yet, I have already seen two pilots that are the “accident waiting to happen” that you mention in your post. Both have significantly more time than I do so, neither wanted to hear what I had to say.

    It is stories like this that remind me that it is my responsibility to speak up regarding hazardous attitudes and the risks associated with them, no matter how they will be received. Not just for the safety of the of the pilots involved but also to protect myself from the guilt I will certainly feel if one of these pilots kills themselves or god forbid an aircraft full of passengers.

    And just for the record, After some very carefully chosen words I did eventually make an impression on one of them. I count this as one of my early successes in flight instruction.

    Thanks again for the blog, I have just found it and I am enjoying it immensely.

    • Thank You for commenting on that post. Instruction whether in a formal environment or by taking the time to talk to a peer is always worth your effort.
      I am sure you will find most pilots are interested in your point of view and if they accept or disregard your opinion should not be a measure of success.
      You succeed when you both learn.

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