Virtue vs Depravity, an example to share


If the previous “Thought for the day” caused a little head scratching, let me share an example that may clarify my point:

There are two dozen RV’s in the local EAA chapter, mostly flown by former USN pilots, builders and flyers of great skill and excellent judgment. They fly the full envelope, but do so without unnecessary risk.

Enter the man in question. He has the same USN background, a carrier qualified pilot, who went on to a very long airline carrier flying for one of the majors. He decides to get in on the fun, contacts a seller about 800 miles away, and buys an RV-4. Flies there commercially, buys it and flies back in one day solo.

Important details: The guy has no tail wheel endorsement, and no training in them: He has not flown a piston engine plane in several decades, not since a T-34 in the early 1970s. He has never flown a Lycoming powered plane. Has no idea what normal operations like leaning, rpm temps or any details. He flies all the way back at 140mph and 10 GPH, because there is a small line on the tach at 2,300 rpm, and he assumes this to be redline. He never leans the plane. This delays the arrival until after dark. Instead of landing at a lighted, paved field which will require paying a $15 ramp fee, he lands at a friends 2.300′ grass strip with marginal lighting. In the process of ‘landing’ he cannot stay on the 75′ wide strip and mows down three runway lights with the flaps.

The following morning, he is quietly kidded by his friends, but it is made into a joke, and they conspire not to tell others. I directly speak with him and understand that he has learned nothing. Instead of saying “Wow, I feel like an idiot”, it is a just a joke.

When I bring this up quietly to his friends, they all point out that the guy was a great Naval aviator, and had a long spotless airline career. These are the man’s virtues. however, in the arena of personal flight they don’t mean anything to me. Would I let my wife fly with him? Never. In my book, the man is much better evaluated by his ‘depravity.’  He is a corner cutter, he is cheap, and he has no judgment. In the Navy and at the Airline, there were strict rules and standards. Other people prepped the plane, gave him the exact info, and paid the bills. When he is without this framework of his virtues, his weakness is revealed. I would not have worried about flying on an airliner he was in command of, but that is a very different setting than getting in a light plane with him.

In the first part of this story I wrote “Show me once that someone is a dangerous idiot, and I will never put myself in the position of needing to trust nor count on that person again. Aviation does not always give second chances.” Please understand I am not speaking of a pilot making a single mistake here. Humans do that, even skilled ones. The vital difference here is that the perpetrator in question had a month to shop for a plane, and during that time he got no training, read nothing on the operation of the plane, knew he was going to fly it back without a tail wheel sign off, knew for at least half the flight that he would be arriving after dark, and crucially, learned nothing from the experience. He just saw it as ‘having almost worked.’

That is not a mistake, it is a long pre-meditated judgment error, and it is very fair to decide on the sole basis of this that you will have nothing to do with him around planes. It is your life, and you are not obligated to expose yourself to risk just because you are trying to be ‘fair’, or express gratitude for the man’s service, nor acknowledgement of his spotless career.  The man has 100 times the amount of PIC time that I do, but know what? I am very comfortable saying I have far better judgment around light plane operations than he does. Let me extend this to say, you may never have soloed a plane before, and I would trust your judgment more than I do that man’s.  Never look at a person with great qualifications and assume if he has issues that you will also. I could train a 25 hour pilot to lands an RV-4. This is not a skill story. This is solely about judgment.

Let me further offer that I like the guy as a human, he is friendly and personable, easy to get along with. All great virtues outside the airport fence.  However, once I am inside the flying arena, I don’t care what any persons publicly proclaimed virtues are. I am solely concerned with what their weakness are, and once it has been demonstrated that they willfully did stupid things, I will never trust them again. I know many pilots that have my complete trust, but I also know a great number that I would never get in a plane with.  I just picked the story above as an easy example. I could spend the weekend and type out 100 more right off the top of my head. Don’t give anyone who you suspect of being a fool, cheap, a show-off or a corner cutter the benefit of the doubt. Stay away from them, find better people.

The best way to avoid all of this is to become the master of your own world of flight, only associate with people who don’t consort with nor tolerate fools, and find your own place in aviation, safely away from morons without judgment. .ww.

One Reply to “Virtue vs Depravity, an example to share”

  1. Hi William – hope you and Grace Ellen are doing well. Still working on the 650 – on the canopy now. I’ll be heading up to Roy’s Garage next month to run my engine. I very much appreciate everything you have done to help me get this far… Maybe I’ll get to the Zenith CC this summer!!

    Love you, man.
    Brian M.

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