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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Groundhog Day Aviation Style

Last week I received an email from Steve Slade with a great reminder about complacency and how easy it is to get into routine where mistakes happen. It's not if... but when.

Steve Slade:

"This Wednesday our local commuter here in Homer decided to try and new landing technique. I guess not too new, as we have seen this many times. ERA says the landing gear failed. Ya right. All three independent gear assemblies all failed at once. A friend of mine made the comment that "how could this happen with two pilots and a checklist?" Valid question. I think that question has been asked a thousand times throughout aviation history.


My answer? Complacency. I think complacency is one of the most under estimated, under recognized hazards to aviation safety. These commuters take off and land at the same airports hundreds of times a month on little 20 to 30 minute flights. You tend to go on automatic mode.

When I flew I found myself on personal "auto-pilot" many times. I was flying, doing just fine, but my mind was on a beach 3000 miles away in the Caribbean or insert whatever your favorite personal daydream is. Then again, we also find ourselves doing the same routine duties such as take-offs and landings that we feel since we have done the same thing, in the same place, a 1000 times, that how can we mess it up. Right?


Having jump-seated many times I can see where complacency would be a bigger danger to airline pilots vs. and average helicopter pilot. We are up and down, around, dodging weather, multiple landing is many different places. A jet takes off and lands a lot of times only once a day.

Commuters may do it multiple times a day. Especially in the same area at the same airport. Their day tends to be very routine and that's where the danger lies hidden. We tend to think that since it is routine, that it makes it bullet proof to mistakes. But contrare, that is what makes it one of the most dangerous attitudes to slip into.

I think every pilot has felt like last month was like the old movie "Ground Hog Day." You ask them about what they did three weeks ago and it is exactly the same what they did this week. For an office worker, that is fine. But not for a pilot. Every take off, every landing has to be approached with the same precision you did it when you were first taught.

Fighting complacency is a never ending battle. Period.
You never overcome it. When you think you have, that is when you are the most dangerous. It has to be recognized as your mortal enemy and defended against every time you strap that 10 ton flying machine to your ass."

Steve apologized for the rant (unnecessarily) But he has lost too many friends to complacency and thought maybe we could "highlight something we pretty much all know but need to be reminded from time to time." 

"This time it only cost a ton of money and with airlines tight bottom line, the costs only get passed on to you and me. But these pilots might not be so lucky next time and could costs things money can't buy.... Besides, it really looks bad on a resume..." Steve Slade, from Rotor Apps

What do you do to keep complacency 
out of your plane?

Have you ever gone on personal autopilot?

Enjoy the journey!
XO Karlene


  1. Hi Karlene, well here it goes .. Their is no excuse for a gear up in any operation, period.

    I could make this about me (standard pilot response;) but I won't.

    Most of my flight time was single pilot PIC & I know that I was never the easiest guy to get along with in the company sandbox .. Having flown in AK, I did witness a little more of a cowboy attitude up there then I ever did down south.

    With that said, if this wasn't an MX failure - heads should roll.

    1. I agree Daniel! My instructor always said, "It's not if, but when." In my fixed gear 172 he always had me do a centerline check, gear down. Habit patterns that last a long time.

      Hopefully we'll get the full story. Thanks for your comment!

  2. If you see a double script, to get rid of it click on the title of the blog. Not sure what blogger is up to today...but hopefully tomorrow it will go away!

    1. We all appreciate the time and effort from your busy schedule to maintain this site Karlene. Being a web guy myself, I know its harder than it looks,..

  3. Good habits are one key.
    Every landing: "1000 feet, cleared to land, missed approach altitude set, landing check done" or something.
    Flying little airplanes I got in the habit of checking every landing "three greens over the fence."
    Some say about the gear-up landing:"there are those that have and those that will." I think that's mostly been said by those that have. But if it is inevitable, try to put it off as long as possible.

    1. You're right.... let's not be those who have! Thank you for your comment. And hopefully we never will.

  4. Lucky our helicopters come with the gear already down and locked....not too much to screw up

    1. That helps! My instructor enforced the gear check even though my gear was already down. A good foundation for the future. Thanks for the great post!

  5. Gear up landing:
    "is for those that have, and those that will". Oh!
    Those are some pretty bad odds.
    But i bet you the odds of those that have, will never do it again,
    After being kicked in their complacency.

    1. Oh...that saying, "those who have, or those who will," is for everything we can screw up and don't think it can happen to you. It's just a reminder that we have to pay attention. Not the real odds. Thankfully!


Thank you for your comment! If your comment doesn't appear immediately, it will after I land. Enjoy the journey!