I flew with him on three continents. I chased him down black diamond slopes. I helped introduce him to his wife. I was his best man at his wedding. We talked about flying from every angle. More than once. Floatplanes, gliders, antiques, airliners, biz-jets, military jets. We talked about it all. We even talked about Cockpit Resource Management – CRM. That’s airline speak for “How do you work with the other pilot in the cockpit to safely operate the airplane?”
Andy was killed in a biz-jet crash this month two years ago. He was the co-pilot in a Cessna Citation. What bugs me is the links in the chain of events leading to his death began well before the early morning crash. His death has more to do with the softer side of aviation than the harder side. What do I mean by that? I think it is more about the personalities and the emotions involved than the technical skills involved. I think the relationship between pilots in the cockpit was huge factor in the accident. The cockpit recorder doesn’t tell the whole story – just the minutes leading up to the end.
The final factual report has been published by the NTSB Final Report
Was I surprised by the tapes? Not really. Andy did what we had talked about at different times. How do you tell the othe pilot in the cockpit you are uncomfortable with what he is doing. My answer and plan has always been to start out subtle and build up from there. According to the report, Andy did that. He started out gently telling the captain he had concerns about being high. He then asked more directly if the captain wanted to use speedbrakes. That’s what I would have done. Then the captain didn’t do what he said he would do. He did his own thing without communicating his “real” intentions to his co-pilot.
What do I learn from this? Starting out subtle is OK, but you have to finish strong. Maybe really, really strong. It may change the relationship forever, but at least you will be alive to have the other pilot pissed at you. If you are uncomfortable with the way the other pilot is flying, let them know. Then escalate you concerns until they respond in a way that puts the plane in a position you are comfortable with. You can discuss the details later. I wish Andy had.
When do you speak up? How do you do it? How long will you wait to speak up? How forcefully will you make your point? Put your thoughs in the comments.