top of page

Ready for take-off

Peek inside a Pilot's mind

Updated: Nov 17, 2020

by an Aviator (KZN)

I love the feeling of power in my hands: good , long hard thrust at my beck and call, the quiet vibration of an engine humming merrily in it’s mad dash of thousands of cycles a second, perfect timing, fluidity, precision and poetry in motion. Engines and engine designs are art, and symmetry in its purest form.

‘You pass this way but once. There’s no such thing as normal. There’s you and there’s the rest. There’s now and there’s forever. Do as you damn well please.' Anon

Part One - If anything can go wrong, Fix it! (To hell with Murphy!)

Have you ever heard of the Creed of the Sociopathic Obsessive Compulsive?

I’ve been living it, to a greater or lesser degree, and when contemplating the advantages of exploring an interest… writing… coupled with a passion … flying… I considered that almost all pilots do follow it, to some extent or another.

I consider my English excellent, after all, I have Level 6 Proficiency, and the CAA cannot be wrong in their assessment of my mother tongue! However I found myself ambling gracefully through and came up with these, shall we call them, clarifications?

Creed: noun

1. any system, doctrine, or formula of religious belief, as of a denomination.

2. any system or codification of belief or of opinion.

3. an authoritative, formulated statement of the chief articles of a belief.

I think the AIP’s might qualify as the South African Aviator’s Creed. Remember what AIP stands for?

so•ci•o•path: noun Psychiatry .

a person, as a psychopathic personality, whose behavior is antisocial and who lacks a sense of moral responsibility or social conscience.

Hmmm, I think the antisocial portion can firmly be struck from the meaning regarding aviators, unless you include such behaviors resulting from petty airfield politics, and insecurities resulting in nerve wracking bravado.

The sense of moral responsibility and social conscience bit is pretty relevant though and not only in the aviation arena. How many pilots cave to pressures to fly overweight aircraft or aircraft with unreported snags? It looks like policemen of the skies, (CAA in SA), become more and more necessary as our world leans more and more toward sociopathic tendencies as moral fiber and codes of honour erode and become washed out in the ever increasing pace of modern living, modern pressures and modern expectations.

Honour and morals are now having to be incorporated in the MOP (Manual of Procedures). I blame it on too much violence on the TV. (But goodness do I enjoy those shows of moral depravity, blood and gore, clever detectives and blurred lines).

However I digress. Let me steer back to the matter at hand, goodness that crosswind came from nowhere!

ob·ses·sive: adjective

1. being, pertaining to, or resembling an obsession: an obsessive fear of illness.

2. causing an obsession.

3. excessive, especially extremely so.

This is a no brainer. In my 16 years in aviation, I am yet to meet a pilot that does not obsess about flying. It is a calling.

A pilot is drawn to the skies like the opposite poles of earth magnets draw together. (If you have ever played with earth magnets you will understand the strength of the connection).

Many pilots suffer from "AIDS" as a result of this obsession, and NO, this is not about multiple ports of call, and I am not referring to the disease... I am referring to the "Aviation Induced Divorce Syndrome". Pilots seldom make the most "available" partners. Usually the better the pay, the more absent the pilot. It is most often a selfish, obsessive career.

com·pul·sive: adjective

1. compelling; compulsory.

2. Psychology .

a. pertaining to, characterized by, or involving compulsion: a compulsive desire to fly.

b. governed by an obsessive need to conform, be scrupulous, etc.

The compulsive drive to fly (reference the earth magnets), bears relevance in so far as many pilots (myself included), don't think much further than the dream, romance and excitement of flying, and then become obsessed with this. So lets get back to the Creed.

The FIRST "Creed of the sociopathic obsessive compulsive" is:

If anything can go wrong, Fix it! (To hell with Murphy!)

I read this in its most basic sense. So there sits a prospective PPL during the initial PPL flight test. Sweat dripping from his back in the 37 degrees heat inside a closed C150 cockpit with limited ventilation that behaves with full throttle in the climb as a 50cc motorcycle behaves at full throttle going downhill … sluggishly.

The limits are 100’Take-off + 10 kt / - 5 kt

Climb and approach ± 15 kts

Altitude / height ± 150 ft

Heading ± 10º

Note: Allowance for turbulence at the discretion of the Examiner.

Do I give one iota if the student does not stick to 60kts on the climb out?

Heck yeah! I want him to climb at a speed that will get us away from the ground as FAST as possible (in this case at the awe inspiring rate of climb of 100’ per minute) 60kts or thereabouts is this magic number in the C150.

I have become so accustomed to a 100' - 300' per minute rate of climb that my expectations have lowered, but I have heard rumours of aircraft that can climb at 2000’ per minute. Do they really exist?

Do I care if a student inadvertently climbs 200 ft above the chosen altitude? Not me, I consider that a small miracle, but here comes the creed. The sin is not in that the student climbed, and went beyond the 150ft leeway. It becomes a sin when he does not follow the creed: If anything can go wrong, FIX IT! (To hell with Murphy), there’s only place for two in the aircraft anyway!

Russ's Laws:

The Creed of the Sociopathic Obsessive Compulsive

1. If anything can go wrong, Fix it! (To hell with Murphy!)

2. When given a choice – Take Both!

3. Multiple projects lead to multiple successes.

4. Start at the top then work your way up.

5. Do it by the book…but be the author!

6. When forced to compromise, ask for more.

7. If you can’t beat them, join them, then beat them.

8. If it’s worth doing, it’s got to be done right now.

9. If you can’t win, change the rules.

10. If you can’t change the rules, then ignore them.

11. Perfection is not optional.

12. When faced without a challenge, make one.

13. “No” simply means begin again at one level higher.

14. Don’t walk when you can run.

15. Bureaucracy is a challenge to be conquered with a righteous attitude, a tolerance for stupidity, and a bulldozer when necessary.

16. When in doubt: THINK!

17. Patience is a virtue, but persistence to the point of success is a blessing.

18. The squeaky wheel gets replaced.

19. The faster you move, the slower time passes, the longer you live.

“You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” Robin Williams

23 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Circuit direction
Circuit checks
Normal take-off
Crosswind take-off
Shortfield take-off
Crosswind leg
Downwind leg
Base Leg
Final leg
Flaring high
Flaring low
Flapless landing
Shortfield landing
Glide approaches
Sideslip approach
Crab approach
Circuit radio
bottom of page