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Training Tip: What just happened?Training Tip: What just happened?

When the Cessna 172’s right brake pedal went soft on rollout from a landing at a busy airport with a twin on final close behind, three quick reactions by three people in three separate places kept trouble at bay.

Photo by Christopher Rose.

“Cessna’s lost the brakes,” I radioed (or similar words, this was a long time ago).

“Aircraft on final go around,” said the controller. The pilot acknowledged.

I remember with admiration the way that tower controller reacted with exquisite speed and calm, and how smoothly the twin pilot handled the classic go-around-from-short-final scenario.

I hated to make him go around (and he had a passenger aboard), but he was a real gentleman about it on the ramp after we had both arrived at parking—a feat I accomplished with a 270-degree left taxi turn to clear the runway, since a 90 to the right wasn’t possible, although brake pressure returned shortly thereafter.

That struck me as mysterious, so when I returned to the home airport, I proceeded to look in on the flight school’s top mechanic for some thoughts about what might have happened.

Well, he said, it could have been this, and it could have been that, hard to say for sure. For me it had still been worthwhile to be able to review the occurrence with an expert—especially one who kept our ever-busy fixed-base operation’s airplanes inspected, maintained, and flying.

I’m no aircraft mechanic (as noted for the bucket list), so I avail myself of opportunities to pick the brains of the mechanics I know about ways pilots can be better friends to the equipment we fly. What they say can be eye-opening, and the “wrenches” I know take pride in their patience putting up with pestering pilots.

If you know the mechanics who work on the aircraft you fly—and some mechanics also fly the same aircraft you fly—reach out and make friends. Many air traffic controllers also fly, and you likely already have a laundry list of questions you’d like to ask them about their work.

To many pilots, mechanics and air traffic controllers seem to exist in separate universes—anonymous and unapproachable. But that’s not the case, and sometimes all it takes is a split-second response to a traffic conflict, or dropping in at the chief mechanic’s office, to be reminded that we’re one big flying family.

Is there something you’d like to ask a controller or mechanic?  Share your questions at

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Emergency, Communication, Takeoffs and Landings
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