I've discovered a fantastic interview question. "Tell me about a time you had to use all your piloting skill to succeed." The answers show me how a pilot thinks about their own limits, what they consider piloting skills to be, what they understand about their aircraft, weather, or whatever the situation was, and a surprising number of times it results in the pilot telling on themselves about how they violated the regulations, and how they feel about that. They just hop into hangar flying mode and pull out a favourite "there I was" story.
There are two things a pilot can learn from making dumb decisions and getting into trouble. Some of them learn that the regulations are there for a reason, and it's better to follow them. And some of them learn that they didn't die the first time, so it's a viable choice. Their stories tell me about that.
And one I interviewed told a marvellous story, that right up until almost the end was almost the same as this joke. (The joke is older than the Internet, but I took this retelling from here).
A bush-pilot drops Bob and Ted, two moose hunters, at a remote lake in Northern Ontario. He tells them that he’ll be back in a week, and warns them that his plane won’t be able to take off with more than one moose.
The next week he returns, and sure enough, the hunters have bagged two moose. The pilot tells them there’s no way they can take off with the two moose. Ted says, “I don’t know, the pilot last year took off with two moose.” To which Bob adds, “Yeah, but maybe he wasn’t a total coward!”
Not wanting to be outdone, the pilot loads up everything and they start to move down the lake. The plane is gathering speed, but the pines on the shore are rapidly approaching. Finally, the plane gets airborne, but one wing clips the top of a tree. The plane spins, crashes into the trees, and breaks apart.
Sometime later Ted regains consciousness and begins searching for his buddy. He finds him, and when he wakes him up Bob asks, “Do you have any idea where we are?” Ted replies, “I think about 200 yards further than last year."
The candidate talked about how insistent the customers were, about how out at the lake there is no actual scale to weigh the cargo. You just have to go by look and feel. He talked about the wind, and the conditions and the geography. I was in suspense. Was he really going to tell me how hard it was to pull that Beaver off the water and then get enough speed in ground effect to clear the trees? Was he going to tell me how many Gs he pulled to avoid the hills, and how he recovered from the ensuing stall?
And then he demonstrated a vastly underrated piloting skill, but one that has kept me alive all these years and that I insist on in my pilots. He said no. The hunting bounty would have to come out in multiple loads. A pilot has to be able to do that.
Two posts in 2023? It's looking like it's going to be a good year after all. Please, please keep posting!
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