Last week’s blog on decision making turned out to be more than the usual rant on poor decision making. I voiced an opinion that a CFI faced with a recalcitrant main landing gear on a Cessna 172 RG might be taking more risk than prudent in trying to get the gear down. You can read last week’s blog here or just scroll down. (It was noted in error as a Cardinal RG—my mistake.)
There were good comments, pro and con. As this is being written Tuesday morning, 70 percent thought the insurance company should buy the aircraft, and 20 percent thought the CFI was managing the risk appropriately.
What makes this both fun and educational is that the CFI, whom we’ll call Tom, called me after reading the blog to tell his side of the story. Here are his comments, which give us a rare insight into his thought process:
“First and foremost, I would like to assure everyone that this decision was not made in haste and on a whim. It was well thought out and coordinated with maintenance, ATC, the pilots in the practice area over the ocean, and amongst the two of us in the cockpit.
I bring to this equation over 20 years of flight experience, 8,000+ hours of flight time, a jet airline captain perspective, skydiving and open-door/wind stream knowledge, and an FAA gold seal CFII-MEI. My student and I knew each other well as I had completed his Private and Instrument training. We employed CRM, aeronautical decision making, and risk management using all of the available resources (including the numerous acronyms such as DECIDE, the 3P model, and CFIT). We maintained situational awareness and divided up the flying and problem-solving tasks throughout the entire scenario.
We thought of using a tow bar but didn’t want to risk hitting the elevator. Insurance, money, and cost never came into our decision-making process. In the end I’m glad I didn’t have to test the flight characteristics of an asymmetrical gear landing. I appreciate everyone’s thoughts and comments. I would like to reiterate, though, that I wouldn’t advocate this as a blanket procedure to be performed in all cases. If any of the variables had been different (non-VFR weather, low fuel, a different type of aircraft, single pilot, low-time pilot, night, etc.) then we may have very well come to a different conclusion and solution. Thank you for reading my response.”
The picture shows a Cardinal RG which had essentially the same gear system as a C172RG with a trailing main gear (not asymmetrical) which took the other option and bellied in. That aircraft lives to fly today.
Tom, thanks for a very clear explanation of how you reached your decisions. Some key points—you took a measured approach, and based on your background and on the conditions that existed at the time, decided that the risk was manageable. You didn’t hurry, there were no other complicating factors such as weather or fuel, and you coordinated with all the appropriate parties.
Hindsight bias says that humans almost always over-estimate their ability to forecast outcomes—especially after the fact. As I noted in the first round, I am fortunate to sit in a position of a Monday morning quarterback after all the pieces are laid out on the game board. Lawyers, accident investigators, other pilots, the media, and safety “experts” are quick to sit in judgment after they’ve had a few hours, days, weeks, or months to sift through all the facts. Sometimes we’re right and other times come across as holier-than-thou. Personally, I’ll stick to letting the insurance company have this one but commend you for a nice piece of work. Don’t know that I could have done it—and that’s exactly the point. Dirty Harry famously said, “A man’s got to know his limitations.” This is especially true for pilots. It’s a fine line between wimping out and over-reaching. The consequences of misjudging can be severe.
Tom, I commend you for taking the time to call and bring this to light. It helps our safety cause to see and hear other views respectfully and professionally presented. Now, if we could just get our politicians to do the same!