Do the Right Thing

From NAFI's Chair

Do the Right Thing

There's a long-out-of-print book called The Conversion of Chaplain Cohen, by Herbert Tarr. It's about a young rabbi who is afraid to fly and finds himself in the U.S. Air Force, SAC specifically. It's a touching book that I think you'll enjoy if you can get your hands on it.

There's a scene in the novel where the protagonist finds himself facing a moral dilemma. Rabbi Cohen resolves it by asking himself, "If I'm going to begin compromising my principles now, what am I gonna do when I'm forty?" I've always liked that question, although I will admit to having moved the parameters a bit over the years.

I bring this up because of some recent conversations I've had with less experienced flight instructors. One of the conversations dealt with the issue of counseling someone out of aviation. To me, that has to be one of the hardest things to do, especially if the student has a strong desire to be a pilot. No one wants to be the bad guy. And I'm certainly not talking about someone with a thorny learning plateau - sometimes it only takes a different instructor's perspective or a different technique to get past that.

No, the case I'm talking about is where it's clear it won't work out. Maybe the student can fly by rote, but everyone knows that understanding and correlation just aren't happening. Do we really want that person in the system? What if they have an incident or an accident? Forgetting the legal implications, can we live with ourselves after that, knowing that the student pilot just doesn't have what it takes. This is tough, but the human and humane consequences are just too great. If you've never had to take on this aspect of our responsibilities, count yourself fortunate. It can be a very difficult, if not painful, conversation.

Building on this thought, at what point do you say, "the risk just isn't worth it"? At what point do you say airworthiness, and/or weather, and/or health issues, what-have-you, have pushed the risk metrics beyond what you would tolerate?

I don't have the answers for you, as some of them are moving targets. In my own case, my weather minimums change depending on my recent proficiency. I do know that, for myself, even on the variable items like weather, there are conscious lines in the sand that I will not cross. I ensure that I communicate these to my students, along with my reasoning, so they may learn from my example.

Perhaps that closing thought is the most important - give yourself and your students the gift of knowing how and when to do the right thing, every time.

Bob Meder,
NAFI Board Chair
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