You can be like Rod
Developing a good reputation takes time
Once upon a time, my son Kevin, a student pilot, planned to take a trip from the Bay Area of California to Las Vegas in a Piper Arrow. The pilot in command was a private pilot unknown to me. The trip involved fuel planning (don't they all?), flight over mountains and desert, and myriad other factors that worried me.
"Now, Ralph," I reminded myself, "don't be an overprotective father. Here you are in Alabama, and you are no expert on California and Nevada flying."
"Right," sez I, "I'm not. And that's what worries me."
Then I had a brilliant idea. Rod Machado, the CFI who writes and speaks about flight training all over the country and is a columnist for this magazine, is an expert on California flying. I called Rod and described the planned flight. Then I asked the big question. "Rod, does all of that sound reasonable to you?" Rod answered simply, "No, it doesn't. It would worry me too."
Then Rod made a generous offer. He suggested that I have Kevin and his friend call him. "I'll get all of the details and give them my opinion. Besides, maybe he'll take advice from me a little easier than from his father." Folks, you gotta appreciate friends like that.
I called son Kevin and told him there were some things about the flight that worried me, but that I wasn't an expert on that area. Would he mind calling Rod Machado and getting his opinion? There was a long pause, and then Kevin asked, "The Rod Machado? I have one of his books. Rod Machado will talk to us?" Yep. Then I told Kevin that one of the most important things he could learn about flying is: When in doubt, ask an expert. Then take that advice.
Kevin and friend called Rod; he got the details and realized they had better plans than those that Kevin had communicated to me. Rod decided that the flight made sense. Kevin called me, ready to argue, and I said, "Hey, no argument from me. You got the best advice we could find, and you're listening to it. That's what I want you to remember."
Kevin and friend had a great flight. I think they even won a little bit on the slots.
The lesson here is that all parties involved respected Rod's opinion. Rod has that reputation, and what a wonderful asset it is. There is no more worthwhile goal in aviation than to have the trust and respect of pilots who know you and know how you operate. Every CFI should strive for such a reputation.
No, you cannot gain overnight the reputation and respect that Rod enjoys. But neither did Rod. He earned it over time, and you can too. Just operate with ethics, honesty, guts, and high standards in every action. It will come. It will come locally, of course, much quicker than nationally.
Work hard at it. Next thing you know, other CFIs will be asking your opinion. Other pilots will want to know what you think. The FAA will slowly quit looking at you and begin looking to you. Once people quit wondering what kind of person you are, they don't waste time trying to find out if you are telling the truth; they just want to know what you think. It is a wonderful position.
One word of caution: Day in and day out, year after year, the hardest part is operating consistently to high standards. Most people know what is right. Living that way takes guts. It is worth the effort. Another word of caution: A bad reputation comes easier and faster than a good one to pilots who deserve it.
Ralph Hood, an aviation speaker and writer, has been flying for 33 years and has amassed more than 3,000 hours of flight time. He is a multiengine commercial pilot with an instrument rating.
By Ralph Hood