Experience

In my last post I made mention of the fact that just because the pilot your flying with has a lot more hours than you do doesn’t mean that they’re a better pilot than you are. for example I’d take a Naval Aviator with only 350 hours over a pimply faced flight civilian flight instructor with 700 hours. OK, they both could have acne problems but one of them is qualified to land a Super Hornet on an aircraft carrier, in the middle of the ocean, in dogshit weather, at night, And the other one cancels today’s lesson because the weather could drop down to marginal VFR. (Maybe an unfair characterization of flight instructors but I had to come up with something) It also doesn’t mean that if you have a disagreement while flying the pilot with more hours or who’s designated “Captain” is always right. Like I mentioned I’ve seen this first hand on numerous occasions.

For example, once I was flying with a pilot with much more flight time than I had we had a difference of opinion as to our exact location. I’ll call that pilot Shirley, because that’s her name. Shirley owned one of the jump planes at the skydiving center I jumped at and she’d flown me up to 10,000 feet literally hundreds of times in her Cessna 182. I’d seen her land in strong crosswinds, fly formation loads with other planes, and takeoff and land at our short, unlit dirt landing strip at night. I considered her a good pilot.

I also started riding back and forth with her when she flew the 182 from her hanger in Minneapolis out to the drop zone in Wisconsin on weekends because I’d started taking flying lessons and took all the experience I could get. One day I was flying back to Minneapolis with her when we ran into some crappy weather. The base of the clouds forced us lower and lower while the visibility got downright scary. This was way back in the days before the GPS was invented but never to worry, we a nice 4 lane freeway to follow home. You know the drill, she was flying IFR, I Follow Roads or scud running. I wasn’t particularly concerned because she flew this route every weekend and, I assumed, she knew it like the back of her hand. But as we got about to the halfway point in the short thirty mile flight I noticed that she was flying directly at a cluster of particularly tall TV antennas called the Shoreview Towers which stretched 1438 feet into the air and had a lot of very long and difficult to see guy wires suspending them. Something you definitely wanted to give a wide berth to. Now mind you I couldn’t actually see the towers at that point because the visibility had dropped to under a mile (yeah, I know. We definitely shouldn’t have been there in the first place) but I grew up not far from there and drove past them all the time.

So at this point I politely brought up the fact that she had us on a course to, you know, hit said towers. And would she, kind of like, please not? “Put your mind at ease young fellow.” she said, “I just flew this route just this morning and I know for a fact that those towers are on the other side of the freeway.” knowing I was right, I pressed the issue for a minute or two but she would not be swayed. (Possibly some female stubbornness if you want to be sexest about it) Lacking any other option other than to start a fight for the controls of the plane I just sat back with my arms crossed, waiting to be proven right. Not really, instead I stared intently out the windscreen looking for the towers to appear. TOWER!!! I yelled, pointing unnecessarily at red and white TV antenna that suddenly appeared directly in front of us. To her credit Shirley immediately cranked the 182 over in a steep left bank and missed the guy wires by at least 100 yards. A miss is as good as a mile I guess. After resuming our course on the opposite side of the freeway she acknowledged her mistake saying that she was confused by the fact that in the morning she’d been going east but on the way home she was going west so the towers were on the other side of the road.

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