There have been NO general aviation (GA) accidents involving a pilot fatality over the past 12 months, that is, since November of 2018. Let me say that again! NO Arizona-based GA pilot has been fatally injured in an accident -
FOR THE PAST YEAR!!!
That is absolutely outstanding, but we still have ONE MORE month left to go this year. Is it possible we could go the entire year (2019) without a GA pilot fatality?
We have set a milestone that is worth yelling
from every mountaintop across the state of Arizona!
Last month I talked about the number of gear-up/gear failure landings and highlighted a few. Well, guess what, again, in November, we had another one over in Winslow. A very nice Mooney put it down right on center line, but, OOPS, forgot the gear. How can this happen, you say? What happened to the checklist? Did the pilot not follow the checklist? Did he forget it? Was he distracted? Did he lose the checklist? Did he NOT hear the gear horn?
Well, looking at the instrument panel tells a tale of woe!
Me thinks, and I am fairly certain, the pilot did have access to the landing checklist. And a good look at the gear handle sort of says it all.
Could this happen to you? I am certain the pilot of this airplane would say “NO, that will never happen to me!” And yet…
Fortunately, the only injury was to the pilot’s ego. It would be most interesting to sit down with this pilot at a safety program and go through the whole sequence of events to try and determine just how this could have happened. Fascinating, eh??
Reminiscing back to the old days – which a lot of old guys tend to do - I often wonder how I learned what to do in my many, many roles as a manager, starting way back pre-FAA days. I guess dad had a lot to do with it, living a busy life as a 30-year factory worker, a drum teacher and a fabulous musician, out playing in a band somewhere until all hours of the night, always meeting all those show times, a stickler for punctuality and a man of his word. I am still amazed by how he managed to fit all that stuff into one day and still have time for the family. My oldest sister followed in his footsteps as a musician, but made her name in the world of teaching women sports, and even has a sports complex named after her. I tried drums, but sitting in the front room of my house practicing, looking out the window at the guys playing football, my heart just wasn’t in it! I wanted to play football, dad recognized it, and into midget football I went. To this day I remember my dad, Red and Junie – my coaches – and their work ethics. That was almost 65 years ago, and I guess those were the building blocks. After high school, the U.S. Air Force gave me discipline and my first taste of leadership – they recognized something that I sure didn’t at that time. Then 2 years at Northrop Institute of Technology. Yup, that’s right, Northrup Aircraft’s sponsored aeronautical engineering school, where I planned to put my Air Force training to good use. That was where I was introduced to Dr. John Wells, Chemistry and Physics chair, an absolutely super – and demanding- professor who, for whatever reason, saw that leadership skill in me that I still hadn’t. To this day, he too, is responsible for who I became. And then fate intervened again (a lack of tuition money), and engineering school ended, so into general industry I went, starting as a lowly machine tender in a paper factory.
But again, fate intervened, and I moved into supervision, changed careers, and then moved into a “grunt” job at the nearby chemical plant. I really wanted a grunt job because I was disgusted with some of the management personnel I had to work under at the paper mill, and wanted no further part in it. As a side story, I got the job interview through my girl friend at the time who worked for the personnel department. She set it up. They hired me reluctantly for the “grunt” position after I told them I did not want to work in their quality control lab. I wanted to work on the bull gang, straight 40 hour week, doing manual labor and building my muscles and my tan. Well, that did not last very long! I was hired initially under a 30 day trial period, but on day 25 was “promoted” into the quality control lab. Within 6 months, I was the quality control lab supervisor, which to me was very ironic. All the lab technicians were college graduated chemists, while I was practically ignorant when it came to chemistry, but I learned quickly enough to be conversant on our lab requirements and processes. Managing the people became my primary function and, from somewhere inside, I seemed to be good at that. Another short side story… In 1970, this new government agency called the EPA made a surprise visit to the chemical plant to review our processes and procedures for water cleanliness. You see, a chemical plant takes a lot of water out of the river, uses it to makes chemicals, and then puts it back into the river. The water treatment plant manager and I worked out processes and procedures for testing water samples every morning and night. We saw the EPA coming. Plant management did not, so when EPA showed up, they were in a panic, and here they came, to my in-plant quality control processing lab, looking to place blame for not having processes and procedures. Well, the plant manager and I blew them away with our year long analysis of waste water samples and documentation. I got the plant manager of the year award, earned a big promotion to manager of all acid packaging production for the plant, then got a second award for production efficiency implementation. Shortly thereafter I resigned to go to work for the FAA at a big pay cut!!!
I brought all that on-the-job management training into the FAA with me, and was able to work my way up the ladder, albeit with many, many thanks to other management folks within the FAA who recognized my potential and gave me the opportunities to excel. I was instrumental in the re-staffing and re-building of the Eastern Region Air Traffic controller workforce right after President Reagan fired all of the controllers during the strike of 1981. I actually still remain in touch with several of them, and still continue to work with them off and on in my consulting work. Which brings me to now…
Running the flight school here in Flag gives me the opportunity to meet and teach a lot of folks, all with their own personalities, learning skills and foibles. No two people learn in the same way; each needs specialized attention; each needs to have techniques applied to them in a manner they can relate to; each needs to be treated with respect; and each needs to know what is expected of them in return. FYI, IT DOES HAVE ITS MOMENTS!! I know it is sometimes frustrating for the student, and sometimes it is frustrating for me as the instructor. But instead of getting frustrated, the challenge (to any Flight Instructor) is adjusting the process into something the student can relate to in the hope(s) that the ol’ light bulb will suddenly come on, and the student says “Oh, now I get it!” And seeing them pass the checkride gives me as much satisfaction as I hope it gives them.
In closing this, I want to pass on a couple of rules I learned a long time ago:
- PEOPLE ARE YOUR GREATEST ASSET IN ACCOMPLISHING ANYTHING… AND
- PEOPLE ARE YOUR GREATEST PROBLEM IN ACCOMPLISHING ANYTHING!
- DON’T BE IRREPLACEABLE. IF YOU CAN'T BE REPLACED, YOU CAN'T BE PROMOTED.
- EXPERIENCE IS SOMETHING YOU DON'T GET UNTIL JUST AFTER YOU NEED IT.
- GENERALLY SPEAKING, YOU AREN'T LEARNING MUCH OR LISTENING WELL WHEN YOUR OWN LIPS ARE MOVING.
As a manager, you can accomplish almost anything you set out to do as long as your team believes in the task and trusts you to lead them in the right direction. If you surround yourself with the right people (and NOT just YES people, but strong, knowledgeable people) and leave them alone to do their work (read DO NOT micro-manage), an organization can be very successful. I always liked to say, as the organization manager, I was like the Admiral of the fleet – I gave the overall direction and goals (go here and accomplish this), gathered up the other ship commanders (employees) to get, listen to and consider their inputs, sent them back to their ships (desks) with clear directions and deadlines and then stay out of their way, occasionally checking in with them to see what need they may have and how things are going. I made the really big decisions, like where we were going for lunch that day, where we needed to be to ensure we were meeting our deadlines and goals, and holding everyone up to standards. Always compliment in public, criticize in private, hype the organization, and reward the individuals. Upper management was responsible for any rewards coming my way, not me touting my own horn. Just remember, professionalism is always better than bullshit!