Captain Status

My persona for my radio show is Captain Bobbie— I realize I may have jumped the gun by nominating myself as captain. No, I haven’t taken my ATP and no, I do not fly high-powered turbine aircraft— I am working on my commercial certificate in a cute little Piper Arrow— but Captain status is something more than a certificate and sitting left seat. Being a captain is taking command of situations with the care and safety of all involved with your party. 

For my non aviation friends, all pilots live by federal aviation regulations in a quite large bible-like book under Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulation. Part 91.3 of this title states “The pilot in command of an aircraft is directly responsible for, and is the final authority as to, the operation of that aircraft.” All that legal mumbo jumbo means is “For God so loved the world that he instated FAR 91.3, that those who live by this will not perish but have eternal authority.” 

A captain cannot turn to the person sitting in the right seat and ask questions, for it is up to the captain to make the ultimate decision; therefore, it is our inalienable right to determine our destiny. 
Aeronautical Decision Making is a model by which pilots make choices in the cockpit that is based on the current situation. It is at the discretion of the pilot to disregard any rules and regulations during an emergency— in fact, the aforementioned 91.3 permits it! Do what you have to do in a time of need and explain later. 

Captain status means people trust their lives with you. 40-300 people on any given airplane put their fate in your hands as you shuttle them across the sky in a pressurized tube. The only information you have given them is your name during the preflight briefing. That the passengers blindly trust you demands that you perform at your best. Your decisions should not be made at the sake of convenience, but the sake of safety. It is so much easier to take an easier route— but is the easier route the safest and smoothest route? Airplanes and people can handle a certain amount of turbulence, but there are always clearer skies elsewhere without the bumps.

You are the root of your own suffering. Should you divert south, because there is extreme turbulence ahead? Or would you willingly sit through it because it would be shorter yet more uncomfortable? If you have the fuel, five minutes tacked on to a flight will be worth that much more when the airplane is safely on the ground. In other words, if you have the energy, circumnavigate your obstacles as opposed to enduring pain— the journey is more important, anyhow, for it is through that which creates experience.

A dear friend of mine recently started upgrade training at her airline, and I could not be more proud. She exudes confidence while knowing her weaknesses— that in itself is invaluable, because egotistic pilots pride themselves on knowing everything. Egotistic pilots also cause incidents and let their heads get in the way. To be clear headed is to know what you know and accept that you don’t know everything— any other combination puts others around you at risk (and also makes you look like a smaller person). I look forward to being in the cockpit with her some day and efficiently operating and leading an aircraft safely to it’s final destination. 

I wish I had the credentials with four stripes on my shoulder to back up my Captain status, but a uniform wouldn’t make me a commanding officer. Captain status is available to all who apply—even non aviators—and is granted on the basis of your own character. Are you a captain?

This post is dedicated to soon-to-be-captain Delia Willes, who blogs at Squeaky’s Skywritings. It was inspired by her recent post Report from training.

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