Sound advice for pilots from over 100 years ago

14. July, 2015 • 0 Comments

By John Gostinger

In a recently published book, The Wright Brothers, historian David McCullough examines the challenges faced by the brothers not only in the invention and construction of their aircraft, but also in the challenges they had in teaching themselves to fly it. At a time when Wilbur was the most experienced pilot in the world with something less than 20 hours in the air, he offered his little brother a bit of advice involving aerial decision making that is as important for pilots today as it was ten decades ago.

In 1908, Wilbur was in France demonstrating the miraculous machine to movers and shakers from all over Europe. Kings, generals and other VIPs traveled hundreds of miles just to see the Wright Flyer circle the field for 5 minutes. Wilbur was under tremendous pressure to make it happen. About the same time, Orville was on his way to Washington to introduce aviation to American generals and politicians. In a letter to his brother, Wilbur gave him the following warning regarding the weather, the pressure from others, and the decision to fly or not to fly.

“ I advise you most earnestly to stick to calms, till after you are sure of yourself. Don’t go out even for all the officers of the government unless you would go equally if they were absent. Do not let yourself be forced into anything before you are ready. “

For Student Pilots the “go – no go” decision is usually made by the CFI. After he gets the Private certificate the pilot is on his own. He must never let pressure from others, or from the situation, compromise safety. If a vacation or business trip must be cancelled because of marginal weather the passengers may not be happy, but they will remain alive and the pilot’s insurance underwriter will be thrilled.

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