When Friends Can Kill

Walking across the tarmac I suspiciously eyed the airplane in front of me. It looked old, like it’s owner. Not letting on; I was disappointed. I had hoped for a new airplane with all the latest toys, like GPS, weather radar and maybe even a flight director. But not tonight. Tonight I was flying in an airplane older than the touch tone telephone. (True).

I’m a Flight Instructor by night and a Title Insurance Rep for Chicago Title by day. It’s night.

I’ve done IPC’s (Instrument Proficiency Checks) with this aircraft owner and very qualified pilot several times before but never in his airplane. He’s experienced and conscientious. Let’s call him Jack.

The Flight Review

The Flight Review

The FAA requires every pilot to undergo a Flight Review every 24 months. Statistically speaking the extra review and training the Flight Review offers has been affective in reducing aviation accidents that are classified as skill-based. If nothing else the mandated Flight Review is a chance for pilots to get caught up on recent changes and receive instruction in areas where rust might be creeping in.

Let’s start.  “Jack, let me see all the documents required to be onboard the aircraft.”  Suddenly abashed Jack stared at me for a moment. “Well, like what do you want to see?”

Jack was obviously feeling tested. He shouldn’t. The Flight Review isn’t a test, it’s a recurrent training event that you have to complete satisfactorily but there is no grade and an unsatisfactory result only means you keep training until your instructor gives you the endorsement. If you believe your instructor isn’t being fair you have recourse. You are free to get another instructor.

Not wanting Jack to feel tense I softened my voice and replied, “Well, I kinda need to see all the paperwork the FAA says we need to have onboard the airplane before we can legally take off, you know like the Airworthyness Certificate.” Jack got happy and produced that document.

“How about the Aircraft Registration?” Jack pulled out a large envelope and started going through pages of stuff. When it became painfully obvious he didn’t have the proper registration I said, “Listen, I can’t fly in this airplane without an Aircraft Registration, so let’s reschedule for another day when you can find it.”

What Jack said next shocked me. “No one’s ever asked me for that before. Can we do the flight if I promise to go home and look for it later?”

What I wanted to say is you’ve got to be kidding me!  But what came out of my mouth was, “Well Jack I’m a Flight Instructor. Even though you’re qualified to act as PIC (Pilot In Command) if the FAA ramp checked us they’d have more than a few legitimate questions for me, not to mention a nasty fine. And if the worst happened, I’m sure the insurance company would void the coverage.”

Driving home that night I considered the possibility that no Flight Instructor before me had asked Jack to see the documents required for a legal take-off.  Did a friendly Flight Instructor really say, “Hey that’s ok Jack. Let’s fly this thing and you can find the paperwork later.”  Sometimes the good-old-boy network works to your benefit. But when it comes to flying airplanes, the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) often finds airplane crashes are a result of many small errors leading up to disaster. Crashes are rarely a result of one perilous mistake.

While flying without proper registration won’t bring down an airplane, knowingly flying without one, or worse, not knowing you need one (It’s one of the first things taught when learning to fly) might be indicative of other more serious lapses in memory or judgment.  There are times when friends can kill.

Note: Besides being a CFII, MEI, Pilot, I’m a Title Rep.  (Tie-tél Rep; a person or reptile that scurries through Real Estate Offices and Lending institutions in search of food, stopping at nothing, including stepping on other Title Reps in its pursuit.)  In other words, I sell Title Insurance. Comments made here are my own and do not necessarily belong to Chicago Title.

For more information about Title Insurance or flying airplanes, contact me at ric.Lippincott@ctt.com.

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