AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 100

P&E 

NEVER AGAIN

Pop quiz
Be ready when one comes up
B Y PAU L LO C A N D E R

100 | AOPA PILOT February 2021

following day. " But I do smell oil, " he said
a few moments later.
And Frank was right. The smell of gas
had morphed into an undeniable stench
of burnt oil, followed by a blue haze that
flooded into the cockpit. With the air vents
quickly opened and oil pressure diving, we
decided to set down.
Now, we all know what the prescribed
course of action is-land the airplane. It
is hammered into us from the beginning
when there's even a hint of engine trouble. Safety seminars, countless safety
videos, the FAA, and my wife all reiterate the same thing: Put the wheels on the
ground (preferably upright). Even the airplane's operating handbook barks out the
same gospel: Plan a " Precautionary Landing
Approach " as complete engine failure is possible at any time.
And up ahead was a sleepy little airport with a short runway that was no wider
than a country road, about a mile out and
a couple of thousand feet down. It was the

ANNA MILL

WE ALL MAKE MANAGEMENT decisions
from the mundane (such as being on
time, which is good) to the critical (like
stepping in front of a freight train, which
would be bad). They're a part of our
daily routine. However, life has a knack
of throwing any of us a curveball at any
time, which could be considered the
equivalent of a managerial pop quiz. It's
something that happens when you least
expect it, and sometimes at a scale that
could end your life-or someone else's.
One particular pop quiz started for me
about 30 seconds after leaving my home
airport in a Vans RV-12, an airplane I was
to be checked out in the next day. " I smell
gas, " I said as an odor of gas wafted up my
nose. I was in the right seat and getting a
preview of the airplane I was looking forward to fly that wasn't a Cessna.
" I don't smell anything, " dismissed the
CFI (who we're going to call " Frank " ) in
the left seat. Frank, who's well into his
70s, was scheduled to check me out the

perfect safety net before the engine could
seize into a boat anchor.
Instead, Frank hung a U-turn for home.
" We're not landing? " I asked while
watching the narrow strip of asphalt disappear under the wing.
" No.... " Frank answered, followed by a
muddling of words I would never be able
to recite from memory, even under sodium
pentothal. He had decided, as pilot in command, to return to our airport, which was
a good five miles away. However, as far as I
was concerned, it might as well have been
500 miles to an airplane with an engine
that likely was bleeding to death.
Now, it's fair that I share some critical context. I had just come back from a
24-year break from flying, with nothing
more than a measly 260 hours to my name.
Frank possessed more than 10,000 hours,
making me a comparative Forrest Gump in
contrast. So, with that in mind, I considered that, maybe, there was something he
knew that I didn't. Or perhaps, I had forgotten something within the rust.
I chose to bite my tongue and deferred
my fate to Frank.
Before everyone starts throwing things
at me, I do know that I didn't make this
decision in a vacuum. Yes, my instincts
screamed land, but I weighed a few points
in the fog of that moment.
Point one, Frank not only had thirtyeight times the hours I had, but he'd also
been flying since before I was even born. So,
the guy's gonna know a bit more about flying than I do, right?
Point two, my father raised me with
the mantra of respect your elders and those
above you, which he would enforce with a
painful thumb-thump to the top of one's
head (ask me how I know this).
In other words, I chose to cower in
deferment within a perceived expectation
that it was the right thing to do. But what I



AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021

Contents
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - Intro
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - Cover1
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - Cover2
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - Contents
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 2
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 3
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 4
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 5
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 6
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - 7
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AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - Cover3
AOPA Pilot Magazine - February 2021 - Cover4
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