March 1, 2010
By Barry Schiff
I have celebrated 71 years on Earth, including 27,000 hours above it. Spending the equivalent of three years in a cockpit nurtures a perspective that gives one the right to reflect on events aeronautical with some credibility. Following are a few incidents observed during 57 years of flying.
The takeoff roll seemed normal until the pilot pushed forward on the wheel to raise the tail, but nothing happened. The airplane remained tail low. We need more airspeed, the pilot thought. Acceleration was agonizingly poor in such a tail-low attitude, and the end of the runway was nearing. With only scant feet of runway remaining, the airplane slowly levitated while dangerously nose high.
The pilot screamed for the passengers in the rear of the cabin to get up and move as far forward along the aisle as they could. This center-of-gravity shift made the airplane manageable, and the passengers returned to their seats after the gear and flaps were raised and a safe climb had been established.
The pilot learned to his chagrin that the tequila consisted of several cases weighing a ton. Not wanting to land with such an aft CG, the pilot made his passengers toss the tequila—one bottle at a time—through an emergency exit and into the ocean.
That these five pilots survived their own stupidity is no credit to their skill. If Lady Luck had not been present, we likely would have learned about their misadventures in sobering NTSB reports.
That these pilots were young and immature is no excuse for their reprehensible behavior. They should have lost their certificates. I have a right to administer harsh condemnation because in each case—I am hesitant to confess—the pilot was me.
An adage claims that “good judgment comes from experience, and much of that comes from bad judgment.”
Barry Schiff has flown 314 types of aircraft, and has 12 type ratings and seven instructor ratings.
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