As pilots, we learn about ADM (Aeronautical Decision Making). One component of this is identifying hazardous attitudes that lead to poor decisions, and learning how to think differently(the antidote). The five hazardous attitudes are Resignation, Anti-Authority, Impulsivity, Invulnerability, and Macho. I've heard many folks brush these off as useless knowledge that you just have to know for the FAA exam. I see it quite differently, as I have experienced each of these hazardous attitudes first hand, and have seen their effects. Let's explore these in a bit more detail than we learn in the books.
This is when a situation or series of events cause the pilot to simply give up or say, "what's the use?". While it's difficult for many people to understand, it does happen. I have had many students get so nervous on landing, they totally let go of the controls, sometimes on short final. I've heard this happens because at some point, human nature is to let fate take its course when we feel there is nothing more we can do. I was riding in the back seat of a Piper Arrow in Florida years ago. A private pilot was flying the leg and a friend of mine who was a CFI was up front in the right seat. When the private pilot listened to the AWOS, it indicated there was a very strong direct crosswind. On short final, the pilot got so shaken up by the winds that he pulled the "let go" trick and put his hands up and said , "You Land!" My CFI friend had his seat pushed all the way back and had to control the aircraft, calmly move his seat up so he could reach the rudder pedals, and he landed the airplane beautifully. Yes, resignation happens. We have all heard our instructors say at one point to never stop flying the airplane. We are told this to protect against resignation, and the FAA even tell us the antidote for resignation is, "I'm not helpless, I can make a difference". It's true, never stop flying. My very first student got in a lot of trouble a few years after getting his private pilot ticket. He was on a night VFR cross country and inadvertently flew into IMC over a large lake in Alabama. He started accumulating ice, lost control, and got into a spin. He said all he remembers about the spin was the back seat passengers praying out loud, and my voice telling him to keep flying the airplane. He broke out of the clouds, was able to correct the spin, and landed at a nearby airport loaded with ice. Even in the worse possible conditions, my student did not succumb to resignation and saved four lives, including his own.
The Anti-Authority attitude is pretty self explanatory, the "Why Should I Listen to You?" attitude. I Once had a young wealthy medical student handed off to me by another CFI. This young man was as cocky as they come, and would question absolutely everything I told him. I walked out on the ramp after he had pre-flighted one spring afternoon and noticed that the entire cowling on the Cessna 172 was missing most of it's screws. It only had a handful of screws holding the cowling on and had just come out of maintenance. I told him we weren't flying the airplane and he argued that it had to be safe to fly, it had just came out of maintenance. We then proceeded to take up the flying club's Diamond DA-40 and I told him to take us to an airport just to our north for takeoffs and landings. He took off, turned South in the total opposite direction of our destination airport, and immediately started bragging about his car among other things. I let him continue to teach him a lesson. After about 15 minutes of this, I asked him if we were close to our destination airport and it hit him that he had been flying all that time and not paying a bit of attention to what he was doing. He was completely lost. Funny thing is, he was a 25 hour student pilot who had not soloed, and got mad at me that he wasn't going to get to practice very many landings because we had "wasted" all that time. I agreed with him that it was a waste of time, my time, and I flew the airplane back to it's home base and never flew with him again. I understood after that flight why the other CFI stopped flying with him and transferred him to me. The point is, folks with the this attitude will disobey rules and go against authority as they see fit which is a dangerous thing in aviation. The FAA antidote is, follow the rules, they are usually right.
"Do it right now!"
Folks with an impulsive personality set themselves up for trouble in the cockpit. One winter, a friend and I were flying back to Danville Kentucky from Northern Ohio. We ran into some light snow and we decided to land in Lexington as a precaution. After we landed, my friend who was from Danville, said, "Look, Danville is that way and it's clear, let's go right now before the snow closes in". I didn't have much experience at the time, so it sounded logical. We took off, headed toward Danville, and about 5 miles South of Lexington it started snowing really heavily. We could barely see the ground and started building rime ice on the wings. He pushed on, kept descending to keep ground visibility, and I looked out the right window to see a tower pass by about a quarter mile from us. A little right more right of our course and we would have hit it. We should have taken our time, went in the FBO in Lexington and checked the weather before departing. Impulsivity almost got us. The FAA says, not so fast, think first.
This is the, "that will never happen to me" attitude. The fact is, most people who get involved in aircraft accidents never take off thinking anything bad is going to happen to them. Otherwise, they wouldn't have gone! Getting back to the student who got into the spin at night, I believe invulnerability got him into that situation in the first place. I remember several times during training him saying, "Aww, it will be alright". I warned him each time about the dangers of brushing off potential dangers. The fact is, the more consistently things go right over time, human nature is to assume that will continue. Just remember, it could happen to you. That's why we should continue to learn and practice our emergency procedures, prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
Many people are susceptible to the Macho attitude, especially men. This is the "come on, I can do this!" attitude. I've seen pilots do things in airplanes that they were never designed for or certified to do. Also, years ago at our local university flight school, a student got kicked out of the program for repeatedly buzzing the dorms on his solo flights, assuredly to impress his buddies. This macho attitude is obviously dangerous. Pushing limits is never a good idea. The FAA antidote; taking chances is foolish. This is so true. When things go well, we already assume a certain level of risk in flying. Increasing that risk to impress someone or to show your manliness is just not smart.
The fact is, these hazardous attitudes are much more prevalent than we think and we have all probably displayed some of them at times. A little self reflection and honesty go a long way to not fall victim to these attitudes. So the next time things aren't going as planned, lets try not to let them negatively effect our decisions. Safe Flying!