Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Prats and Experts

Many know of my love of flying. I never did as much as I would have liked and it is a rarity for me to pole around the skies these days. I did get to fly fast jets though in my younger days, whenever I could fit a jolly in. And light aircraft. And gliders. 

It was not even my main job.I was never an expert. I will never be one. But I was never a prat either.

Still it is nice to sit out on the patio on a sunny day and watch the aircraft.

Building expertise in such a complex task as flying is a 'hard yards' endeavour. Even 'experts' at it can make mistakes. Constant awareness is needed.

There is an airport called 'El Prat'.  Perhaps the Spanish have a different connotation with the word but someone at Barcelona showed what a Prat he could be.

It is not my intention to instill a  fear of flying nor to cast aspersions on the flying fraternity. The runway incursion example above is becoming a problem however and it is best to know what you are doing when in a cockpit. The passengers can get quite upset! 

So how does a 'sound' pilot guard against such errors?  When he is very busy, how does he know all of what he is doing?  Consciously and unconsciously? Does he even notice his mistakes?

Back in my day there was a significant change in 'official' attitude. In order to discover what safety incursion issues existed it was necessary to abandon the 'blame & punishment' regime. Pilots were encouraged and even praised for 'dobbing themselves in' when they had made an error. We learned a lot.

Of course back then there were no ways of actually seeing the errors as they occurred, other than taking snaps of the aftermath, or even during the catasrophe as I did many a time with a camera from my tower.  That is something I hope you never have to do. Keeping rock solid calm as a friend burns and saving the tears for later. 

But today there is a way of knowing and one chap in particular has made a very significant impression on the, shall we say, 'Non-Professional' experts, pilots, trainees and journeymen. Others are taking note and helping him further the practice.

Lets see what he is doing.

You might want to go back to the first ten seconds there. !

It is possible that even he got the idea from a chap who I think may have started the revolution a few years back. Brazilian airline pilot, Rodrigo David. 
He put cameras in his cockpit - a commerial airliner based in Rio. It was to train his peers. And he made it an entertainment for so many to simply enjoy.

To become an expert is not as easy as ABC. And to avoid being a prat, one has to try. Hard. Always.


I told a tale in the bar the other night of the toss-bomb run that went wrong. My base operated Buccaneers and a pilot mate went up to Donna Nook range one day to practice tossing bombs. It was a technique the Buccs used for delivering a nuclear bomb.

The technique was to fly very low, down at 200 feet, and very fast and pull into a 45 degree climb. The weapons man in the back seat would release the bomb and the pilot would haul back on the stick to go over in a loop, level out and go like a Bucc out of hell in the opposite direction.  With some luck the bomb having sped on its way in a upward then downward trajectory would be ten miles away from the aircraft when it went off.

Well he pulled a tad hard and blacked out. 

Had there been a camera in the cockpit it would have seen the sea rushing toward the plane as it went straight down, and the guy in the back seat whacking the comatose pilot's helmet and shouting 'Wake up you bastard !!'.

Happily he did wake up just in time to pull out of the dive but the resultant G forces ripped bits of plane off, never to be found.  The aircraft was written off.

It would have made a great video.



  1. The runway incursion example above is becoming a problem however and it is best to know what you are doing when in a cockpit. The passengers can get quite upset!

    Ha ha, love it. Shan't even start on boat collisions.


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