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Would you say it to The Rock?

I was hoping I could get through this entire year without having to write an article about not saying or texting inappropriate things to clients. Two recent scenarios illustrate that this is a message some flight schools and flight instructors still need to hear.

Way back in 2017 actor Dwayne Johnson talked about utilizing “The Rock Test” for sexual harassment in the workplace. It’s stone simple: If you wouldn’t say it to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, don’t say it to a woman. (Writer Anne Victoria Clark came up with the idea in an article published on Medium; Johnson endorsed it on social media.)

I can’t think of a clearer message.

And it applies very nicely to the first scenario, in which a flight instructor texted a client something to the effect of if she wore a certain outfit she could “have all the free flight training” she wanted.

Would he have said that to The Rock? I don’t think so.

The waters are a little muddier in the second scenario because more people are involved. A pilot who owns a Cessna 150 was working with a flight instructor. The student said they are very aware of the weight and balance issues surrounding a Cessna 150, so they do a W&B calculation before every flight.

The CFI mentioned that the flight school owner warned the CFI against flying with the pilot, saying that he was taking his life in his hands, presumably by flying over gross weight. The flight school owner made a disparaging comment about the pilot’s size, saying that he himself could “hide behind” the pilot.

I’m not sure what the CFI’s thinking was in repeating this hurtful remark to a paying customer. (Was it to drive home the importance of doing weight and balance calculations? Surely there are better ways to make that point. Was it to meant to show the CFI’s allegiance to the pilot? If so, that backfired; the pilot was humiliated and is thinking of switching flight schools.)

Was there a better way for the flight school owner to discuss this with the CFI? Of course. A professional discussion could have been had without personal jabs and insults, which made their way to the customer.

Was there a better way for the CFI to communicate this to the client? My take is that the CFI should not have repeated the flight school owner’s comments to the client. If proper weight and balance calculations were being made before each flight, as the client claimed, there was no need to pass along this hurtful comment. If proper weight and balance calculations were not being conducted before each flight, the CFI needs to institute those good habits for a pilot flying a small, underpowered airplane. And I’m sure that could be done without resorting to insults.

Let’s go into the new year with a positive outlook and a reminder that if you wouldn’t say it to The Rock, don’t say it at all. To anybody.

Jill W. Tallman

Jill W. Tallman

AOPA Technical Editor
AOPA Technical Editor Jill W. Tallman is an instrument-rated private pilot who is part-owner of a Cessna 182Q.

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