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Training Tip: Airborne anger managementTraining Tip: Airborne anger management

See the dumb stunt that pilot just pulled? Shocked and horrified, you get on the radio and let him have it.

Photo by Mike Fizer.

Felt good, didn’t it? The rudeness, the lack of consideration—just plain dangerous, and a breach of airport etiquette.

Point taken, but perhaps that pilot isn’t the ogre he seems. Maybe he made a mistake or was too inexperienced to know better. It’s possible your reprimand unnerved him so badly that now he’s rattled to the point where he can barely fly his airplane. You’d feel low if you jangled him so much he lost control of the aircraft.

Unfortunately, there will always be pilots who put a premium on being punitive in the pattern, where most arguments seem to erupt. Long ago I stood on an airport ramp supervising a soloing student pilot when the radio came alive with talk, talk, and more talk. A working pilot employed by a government agency, flying an amphibious airplane, was approaching via an improvised pattern best described as a low-altitude, 45-degree base leg. He did not have the soloing student’s airplane in sight, and the closer he got, the more he demanded position reports and the student pilot’s intentions. It was clear to me that the student was afraid he had done something wrong and was getting rattled.

Both landed, never having seen the other. I had—and when the amphib taxied in, we aired it out.

Even if you’re sure you are right in a dispute, confine the commentary to immediate safety concerns. A pilot arriving VFR at an airport below visual minimums got a talking-to from an IFR flight waiting to depart. In an Aviation Safety Reporting System filing, the arriving pilot conceded error, adding, “I was also a bit shaken up by the aggressiveness of this pilot's tone and just wanted to get on the ground and out of his way.”

If you feel you must win the argument, win it on paper. When a turboprop landed from an instrument approach behind a Piper J–3 Cub flying under visual rules, the turbine pilot accused the Cub captain of infraction. The ASRS report notes that “the J–3 pilot pointed out that he was legal since the airport was Class G Airspace up to 700 FT AGL.” The Cub pilot recommended that instrument pilots “understand the possible scenarios and conflicts with VFR traffic” that could arise “when IFR aircraft fly into non-towered airports.”

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: Student, Pilots, Aeronautical Decision Making
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