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Pilots

Some pilots are a little too quick to criticize their fellow aviators.

Luckily, our group isn’t that way. I was reminded of that when we flew to the Vineyard’s main airport for breakfast this morning.

It’s the time of year where some of the guys had “family stuff” to do, so we met at Taunton with 8 airplanes and headed across Buzzards Bay with 5. After about 20 minutes of flying, the tower controller did his usual great work getting us sequenced for landing between Cape Air flights and jet traffic, despite the haze.

Over omelets and home fries, somehow the subject of our conversation turned to the many foibles and escapades of one former member of the group, who apparently lost his medical and gave up flying. It was gentle ribbing, really, and several of his ground loops and unplanned adventures were related as funny stories. (I got it! I got it! … Aw shit.)

When we get started on those hangar stories, nobody is safe. But more often than not, we enjoy some self deprecation and say,  “I’ve done worse than that!”

Not all pilots are that generous. Some inexperienced aviators can’t resist critiquing someone else’s less than perfect landing, even when theirs are nothing to write home about. But somewhere around the time an airman checks out in a variety of airplanes and gets a few advanced ratings, and then starts flying tail wheels or aerobatics or seaplanes, a mind-shift may occur. After that, we’re all just doing the best we can and enjoying this great sport called flying.

Of course, there’s always an exception, and in this case it would be the old curmudgeon who taught Wilbur and Orville to fly and never caught a wingtip in the grass or busted an assigned altitude. So we all just smile and ignore those blowhards, even if they really are as great as they believe themselves to be.

I remember one bad landing a few years ago, when a friend who is a very fine pilot bounced a heavy landing in his airplane, with full fuel and six of us onboard. There happened to be a flock of charter jet crews standing around in their Ray Bans and gold stripes to witness the “arrival,” and my friend was mortified to have to walk past the professionals to get to the restaurant, with all of us still laughing.

“Are you kidding?” I suggested. “Those jet guys wish they were flying their own airplane with a few buddies, so they could get out laughing after a terrible landing, without worrying about losing their jobs!”

It’s all in your perspective.

Happy Flying!