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The Sacred Trust

We pilots have a big responsibility. That is to protect the lives of people who fly with us. When we take passengers flying for fun, usually it’s family or friends who fly with us. That makes for a very personal connection vs flying strangers as a pro pilot. Regardless, those who fly with you depend on you, the pilot, to make good decisions, maintain control of the aircraft, and get everyone back on the ground safely. This is known as the sacred trust.

I heard the term ‘the sacred trust’ more than 10 years ago when it was described by helicopter pilot/instructor/DPE extraordinaire Karl Cotton, who described the sacred trust at a pilot meeting held at the flight school we both worked at. I really like this term. It helps capture the importance of the trust placed in a pilot by his or her passengers.

My skepticism is that this concept is not emphasized enough as we all too often see fails in aviation that can often be easily avoided. Some of these are: Unprofessional behavior of young flight instructors, showing off, lack of preparation, overconfidence, failing to heed the warnings that can be discovered through proper use of IMSAFE, 3Ps, PAVE, and other aeronautical decision-making tools; poor training, and a lack of desire to really understand flying and how one’s aircraft functions. The point is, not everyone takes flying seriously enough. I always like to point out how, even as a recreational flyer, a pilot needs to treat flying as a second career. That does not mean one has to spend 40 hours per week on flying, but we need to continually work on improving our knowledge and skills, because lives are at stake!

So, we all know that serious mistakes made when flying can be fatal. More work needs to be done to reduce the level of serious and fatal mishaps in General Aviation (GA). One can argue that GA is getting safer, as the statistics show a slow improvement. When compared to the airlines, the GA mishap rate is abysmal. Did you know that an airplane Loss of Control – Inflight mishap occurs on average every 4 days in GA? Not good. The argument that the most dangerous part of a flight is the drive to the airport is true for the airlines, but is far from the truth in GA. There is much to be done to make GA flying safer as a whole. Most of the safety issues in GA are due to the pilot.

With that knowledge, do what you can to protect the sacred trust. Get better at flying. Work on stick-and-rudder skills. Put your ego in check. Learn how to make better decisions. New pilots, the first thing you do once you get your pilot certificate should not be to go flying with passengers (get some more solo experience or other flight training). Never forget the priority of Aviate-Navigate-Communicate (more on that some other time). Each time you fly with passengers, remember how they are putting their lives in your hands. It’s the most responsibility you will likely ever have.

Pilots Must Always Protect the Sacred Trust

By Mike “Cuckoo” Kloch

Trust me, I'm a pilot

These sayings are on T-shirts, mugs and more. Make sure they are not just a funny quip. Live up to the sacred trust.

After I wrote this, I found a couple of other articles that touch on this subject. Here they are:

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