The media has a habit of sensational reporting – especially of incidents involving airlines, pilots and aviation in general. Hence, a recent article on Yahoo! Travel entitled World’s Dumbest Pilots caught my attention.
Fortunately, the article began by quoting Patrick Smith, the pilot and author of Salon’s “Ask the Pilot” column, as saying:
The traveling public likes to think of its pilots as somewhat superhuman, which has never been fair to pilots as people. Like any professionals, we are liable to make mistakes. Fortunately the vast majority of these mistakes, however inevitable, are minor.
The article then added that pilot blunders are rare and that we are living in the safest period period in aviation history.
Nevertheless, the article still went on to describe some of the following incidents involving dumb pilots that are worth noting:
- A 2008 incident where an Air India flight overshot its destination by 350 miles because, according to some media accounts, the pilots were napping
- Two US Airways pilots who were talking about long ago prom dates and Corvettes – during take-off when extraneous conversations are prohibited. A warning light indicated that the flaps were set wrong and takeoff had to be aborted with the aircraft coming to a stop 100 feet from a steep hillside.
- An Air Canada incident where a pilot told a crew member that he had nothing to loose because he had been fired already. This was a bad choice of words as four crew members refused to fly. They were replaced and the flight still took off.
- An Air India incident where the Captain and copilot got into a brawl – at 30,000 feet. The brawl spilled out into the passenger cabin and a female crewmember was injured when she hit the cockpit door.
- A Russian pilot who slurred an announcement and caused panic in the passenger cabin. Luckily, aviation officials assured passengers that the plane could “practically fly itself.” (The pilot was removed from the flight)
- The Civil Aviation Administration of China has reported that from 2008 and 2009, there were more than 200 pilots on the payrolls of Chinese airlines who had also falsified or exaggerated their pilot credentials and specifically 1 in 7 of Shenzhen Airlines’ pilots (at least 100 pilots) should not have been allowed to fly.
Fortunately, the above incidents were extremely rare cases – especially incidents involving alcohol now as both passengers and crew are on alert for any unprofessional or dangerous behavior by a pilot. Nevertheless and if you should encounter a fellow pilot who might make it into an article entitled the World’s Dumbest Pilots, it is still up to you to report the person to the proper authorities before they endanger themselves or passengers.