27 October 2008


Oops is probably not a word you like to hear anywhere near an airplane.

Not quite as bad as "Uh Oh" and not nearly as alarming as "Oh Sh*t!"

Still, oops does tend to be an attention-getter. Fortunately, this oops occurred on the ground and not in the air.

Got clearance to cross a runway and contact ground. So the normal procedure is to cross the line, hold (meaning STOP), and call up the tower for taxi instructions.

So I motored across and as I did so, was explaining something to my left-seat student-passenger, can't remember what any more.

Now usually, I can talk and taxi an airplane at the same time. Perhaps a bit more difficult than walking and chewing gum but generally doable.

Somehow this time was different.

I crossed the runway and cruised right on past the hold line and automatically turned left onto the taxiway.

And faced right into an oncoming jet taxiing toward me.


One millisecond later, the controller on the radio not-so-gently reminded me that I was to hold and contact ground.

Mortified and stunned that I could have done such a thing, I sheepishly acknowledged and apologized. Stomped on the right brake and thankfully had enough room to do a 180 on the taxiway and get clear to the ramp.

Now would be a good time to point out that the oncoming jet was still quite a ways down the taxiway from where we were, at least 200 yards.

And I saw the jet stop moving so I knew that at least that driver was paying attention. And very likely muttering niceties in my direction while I flailed my arms and gnashed my teeth.

Anyways there was very little imminent danger of bending aluminum.

Still . . . it was a mistake. Probably my most serious mistake so far.

Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

A couple of lessons are now burned onto my synapses:

First, I allowed myself to get distracted during taxi. Distraction is a famous cause of accidents on the ground and I was guilty as hell. So in the future I resolve to pay a lot more attention during this phase of operating an airplane.

Second, I've always considered myself to be a very safe and attentive pilot but I now realize, sadly, that I am no different than any other pilot who gets distracted while taxiing.

In other words, I am not a perfect pilot.


And that is perhaps the more important lesson.

Having an attitude of invincibility is one of the leading reasons pilots get into trouble, and I don't mean with the FAA.

Recognizing one's fallibility is a good step in the right direction of being a safe, confident, and competent pilot.

That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

1 comment:

A Mama's Blog (Heather) said...

Wow...that is scary, but it sounds like you learned from the experience.

I think things happen for a reason, and I bet you will not allow yourself to become distracted during the taxi again. :-)

Congrats on passing your written exam as well. That's great.