9 Pilots You Don't Want to Fly With

The Pilot Who Skips the Checklist

Image: Getty

Some pilots think that because they’ve flown airplanes for hundreds of hours, they have the checklists burned into their memory. Most of these pilots have pretty good memories, indeed, but the absence of a checklist signifies a greater problem - that the pilot thinks he is immune to psychological and physical human factors that affect everyone. Studies show that fatigue and stress can affect our memory and recall, even with things that are forever etched into out long-term memories. A pilot who thinks they’re psychologically immune to the risks of basic human-ness is a red flag.  

The Pilot Who Only Flies 'Direct To'

Handheld GPS
Image: Getty

We all use GPS, and we all follow that pink line to get to our destination. The difference between a good pilot and a no-so-good pilot is a backup plan. A pilot that does nothing more than pushes “Direct” and then follows the magenta line on the GPS will be completely unprepared (and lost!) when the GPS signal fails (which, admittedly, is rare), or when the electrical system fails (less rare) or when ATC assigns a different route or vectors your airplane around until you have no idea where you are anymore. Most pilots are familiar enough with their avionics to maintain their awareness of the world around them, but many pilots have forgotten how to navigate without the “Direct To” function. 

The Pilot Who Forgoes the Weather Briefing

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The weather can change in an instant. So the pilot who drives to the airport, looks up at the sun shining in the sky, and then hops in the airplane for a cross-country flight without proper weather planning is taking a risk. Even if you plan to stay near the airport, the weather can change quickly and when you least expect it. Winds can pick up, clouds can roll in, or the temperature can quickly lower to the dew point, resulting in the formation of fog.   

The Pilot Who Thinks NOTAMS and TFRs Don't Apply to Him.

TFRs over Super Bowl 50. Image: FAA

Nobody wants to be intercepted by a fighter jet armed with weapons, right? And nobody wants to inadvertently land at an airport that was closed earlier in the day unbeknownst to them. Checking NOTAMs and TFRs is just a no-brainer. 

The Pilot Who Ignores Another Pilot's Warnings

wind sock
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When an experienced flight instructor comes into the flight planning room and says, “The wind is really howling out there - I had full crosswind input in and barely made it down!” and then your low-time private pilot friend says, “Eh, it doesn't look that bad. Let’s go do some touch-and-goes," that’s a big red flag. Of course, we all have our own personal minimums and some pilots are more skilled than others, but a direct warning from one pilot to another should always be carefully considered. 

The Cranky Pilot

mad pilot
Image: Getty/Westend61

Everybody has a bad day from time to time, but most of us it’s temporary. Occasionally, you’ll find yourself in an airplane with someone who seems to really hate life. These people are not only unhappy, but they make everyone around them unhappy, too. And in most cases, being rude or intimidating will result in a breakdown in communication, which can lead to a complete crew resource management failure in the cockpit - never a good thing. 

The Pilot Who Smells Like Alcohol.

Accused Drunk Pilots In Court
Joe Raedle / Getty Images

This is a no-brainer, but pilots still seem to have a reputation for being heavy drinkers. It’s one thing to have a beer when you’re on the ground, but if you drank so much the night before a flight that you smell like alcohol the next morning, you’re likely to disappoint your fellow crew members. And if you have passengers, they may be delayed while waiting for a new, totally sober crew member to show up. Even if you’re not a required crew member, if you’re sitting at the controls in my airplane, you’d better be - and smell - completely sober. 

The Macho Pilot

Portrait of young businessman flexing muscle outdoors
Photo: Getty/XiXinXing

The pilot who can do everything and knows everything and wants to show you everything he can do and everything that he knows is a pilot nobody wants to fly with. It seems like every airport has a pilot with a hazardous attitude like this. They’re often loners because anyone who has been around a while knows them well enough to steer clear of their hangar. But occasionally, you’ll find yourself in an airplane with that guy who is famous for saying, “Watch this!” Do what you can to get out. What follows rarely ends well. 

The Pilot who Doesn't Think CRM Applies to Him

Flight crew CRM
Image: Getty

It would seem that everyone is on board with crew resource management these days. Or, at least they’ll tell you they are. One of the worst types of people to fly with is the pilot in command who says he's all about teamwork and open communication, and then tells you to sit there and be quiet while they make all the decisions on their own. They don’t usually know they’re doing this, but it's very hazardous to the CRM environment and the flight. Not to mention, it’s just really annoying.