A succinct formulation of a fundamental principle, general truth, or rule of conduct.
In a recent post I mentioned a pilot having a safety maxim in his wallet and one commenter thought it might be a euphemism. I stared at my screen for a while, thinking "euphemism for what?" then wondered if the commenter thought it might be a naked girlie pic from a men's magazine called Maxim. Or I believe in some countries a condom is called a safety, so perhaps that's what he was thinking. But no. You see, our licence has to be shown to the authorities. We're required by law to produce it on demand for Transport Canada, the police, or customs officials. It's not a good idea to have objectional material drop out on the counter as we extract our documents.
By a safety maxim, I really do mean a little saying pertaining to safety. You've probably heard "Arrive Alive: Don't Drink and Drive," but likely just in public service announcements. People don't actually say such things to one another as safety reminders. More than in any other field I have encountered, pilots have and actually use these little sayings among ourselves.
"Better to be on the ground, wishing you were in the air than in the air wishing you were on the ground."
"Better a little late in this life than early in the next."
"A pilot lives in a world of perfection, or not at all."
-- Richard S. Drury
There are thousands of them. Short, easy to remember, carrying a message to counteract the one that our customers and bosses may be pushing. Flying is taught one-on-one, hands on, and we learned these saying from our flight instructors who learned them from their flight instructors, all the way back to Wilbur Wright, who said:
Do not let yourself be forced into doing anything before you are ready.
-- Wilbur Wright