Just last week an A&P technician informed me that he solved a longstanding mechanical problem in a nearly new aircraft. He proudly boasted that he was able to troubleshoot an engine vibration issue after an unsuccessful attempt by the factory experts, because he test flew the aircraft and they didn’t. He then nonchalantly mentioned that he does not possess a pilot certificate but always takes a safety pilot with him.
Then there was the pilot of a Citation who hired me to reposition his aircraft. The airplane had bundles of wire exposed in the cockpit and cabin from aftermarket intercom and entertainment devices. I explained to him that modifications to the electrical system must be from an approved vendor. He said the manufacturer wanted an astronomical sum of money for the approved equipment and that he saved “tens of thousands” his way.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen checklists created by pilots who think their version is better than the manufacturer’s. With all good intensions, they whittle away the “fluff” and “unimportant” items and create a “more efficient” personal version.
Unfortunately, this action sometimes deletes critical action items. One recent client of mine, while creating his checklist, inadvertently left out the activation of pitot/stall warning vane heater in the Before Takeoff section—and wondered why he kept getting master caution annunciators each time he applied takeoff thrust.
The other pet peeve of mine—and most other designated pilot examiners I speak with—is the failure to establish and maintain recommended approach speeds and properly configure flaps and gear to create a stabilized approach, per the aircraft flight manual (AFM). Many pilots were taught, during primary training, by inexperienced CFIs who didn’t understand the value of this critical aviating skill, and now disregard all attempts to remedy it. It is no wonder that runway overruns and botched landings are so common.
What do all these behaviors have in common? A disregard for authority. Studies have revealed that many owner-pilots are susceptible to this because they typically are type A personalities—and “masters of their universe.” They make their own rules as they see fit and usually flaunt authority or the status quo. In many cases this works well for them in business, but does not lend itself to the cockpit.
Anti-authority is considered one of the FAA’s five hazardous attitudes. The FAA defines this attitude as “one who is resentful of having someone telling them what to do, or may regard rules, regulations, and procedures as silly or unnecessary.” Many of you can probably recall an experience with someone exhibiting this attitude. Maybe it’s a disregard for the taxiway centerline, taxiing at excessive speed, continuing to fly aircraft past the annual inspection expiration date, or failing an aircraft with airworthiness directives (ADs).
If you think you have a better way to make your next flight more efficient or safer, by all means do so. But first pass it by an authority—please!
Jack Boyd is a DPE in South Florida and president of Gold Standard Aviation.