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Spreading Myths

by Darren Smith, CFII/MEI
Getting the Most from Your Flight Training, March, 2007
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Getting the Facts:  Spreading Myths | The Instructor Knows All

I'm very thankful to the readers of this website who aren't shy to use that feedback form at the bottom of every page.  One of the big themes in the years of operating my website is folks not getting the facts straight.  Instead they rely on the myth spreaders or half truths they've heard.  I've literally received over 100 feedback forms on this (as of Jan2007).  It usually starts out: "Thanks for setting the record straight...."

We all know these folks who are great hanger fliers and always have a great story to tell.  They tell half-truths and spread misinformation (intentionally or not) which seems reasonable enough that the story spreads quickly.  They quickly give an answer which is well reasoned, or should I say rationalized, but nonetheless... wrong.  I've run into these folks at safety seminars who will challenge something I'm teaching.  Since I've gone to source documents for what I present, I can confidently declare their statement as a myth based on practical experience, or personal opinion.  Sometimes they're correct, and factual information supports them.  On a few rare occasions, I've simply informed them they are just wrong

Fact, Practicality, and Opinion

When something is factual, it comes from authoritative source documents.  What is authoritative?  For us, its primarily FAA documents.  An example was a young flight instructor who insisted to me that CFI means Certified Flight Instructor and his Webster's dictionary supports this grammatically.  I referred the young CFI to several FAA documents which indicate that a CFI is indeed a Certificated Flight Instructor. In fact, you can't find the term Certified Flight Instructor in part61 or part91. Minor right?  But facts are facts and it is what it is.

Sometimes facts are hard to accept, particularly when it relates to personal skill.  I remember a checkout where the check airman cut an engine on the takeoff roll.  That's a PTS task to which I was supposed to respond by killing the 2nd engine and maintaining directional control on the runway.  What did I do?  I pushed the throttle back up and asked him what he was doing.  Boy was I embarrassed.  The fact of the matter was that I had failed the task.

Many pilots can't accept the fact that the leg that extends from the departure end of the runway out to within 300 feet of pattern altitude is called the "departure leg."  Go check out chapter 4 of the AIM if you don't believe me.  Some folks call that upwind.

Practical Experience is when a practice doesn't match the facts but perceived expediency or cost savings. An example of this relates to the stats on mid-air collisions and bird strikes.  Those stats clearly support leaving the landing light on during all phases of flight, including cruise.  But its a $50 bulb right?  Its hard to swallow that cost when it doesn't seem to improve safety.  The stats by the FAA & NTSB suggest that leaving the landing light improves safety and that's more than opinion.  We don't want to comply with the recommendation due to practical reasons.  Folks sometimes say there is a difference between the "FAA-way" and the right way.  When it doesn't compromise safety, is it ok?  That's personal choice.

Personal Opinion is a practice based on personal experience that may not follow the rules (factual information) and where practicality is not necessarily a factor. 

"There's nothing wrong with performing a 20 mile final instead of entering mid-field downwind."  These folks argue that its just as safe and is just as proper, it saves gas and its more practical. 

Let's put some facts on the table.  While the FAR doesn't require a specific pattern entry, the AIM certainly has a recommendation.  The AIM becomes the standard by which you will be judged if something would happen.   As far as being just as safe?  That's just plain wrong.  I've personally seen the bodies of pilots who were killed by an idiot on a 20 mile final.  The accident stats on mid-air collisions also support proper pattern entry.  For the low-time pilots, aren't you trying to build flight time?  Enter the pattern properly.  For the high timers, do you want to lose your career?  your life? or watch your insurance skyrocket?

A gentleman told me his electric boost pump burned out and he hasn't replaced it.  "That's ok, I've got an engine driven pump so I don't need it.  Everything has been fine so far," he declares.  His experience has helped him to develop an opinion that doesn't match the factual information available to him.  No doubt that the fuel pump is required to be operable according to the Type Data Certificate for the aircraft model.  And good common sense says you should probably have a backup for something so critical.  If you don't believe me, then when the engine driven fuel pump quits at 200 feet on the departure leg, you'll change your mind.

How Does this Happen?

Its your fault!  Instead of blindly accepting information, recommendations, and opinions of other pilots (and flight instructors), find the source documents and research it for yourself. 

We all know what wrong is.  It's the state which you will find yourself without any knowledge to defend a specific position.  That position has all the value of the output of the back end of a cow.  As pilot's we can strive to do more and be more and avoid this place. 

When you're confronted with information that seems wrong.  Spend some time to think about it and reply, "I need to give that more thought."  Then go research it so you're in a position of strength to answer it next time.

Although I love to receive emails from readers, I get too many questions asking me, "Is this really true?"  The only thing I can do is refer them to the source document, usually the FAR/AIM, so they can know the truth.  I get one of my former students every so often come back to me with things other flight instructors told them.  They say, "He told me something that conflicts with what u told me 5 years ago.  Who is right?"  The only answer I can give is the source document reference.  So even if your CFI tells you something, try to find the source on it and expand on it so when you hear it again, you're ahead of the game.  Or at least you have a complete answer during the checkride.

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