Take the Hint
I clearly remember a practical test I had scheduled a couple of years ago for a private pilot candidate who was about a two-hour drive away. As a pilot, and an aircraft owner, this situation presents a great excuse to fly instead of drive! But the weather had other plans. About three hours before the start time, I called the applicant and said, “I see that the weather isn’t all that great today [it was about 900 feet overcast with two miles visibility and lake effect snow showers in February in Michigan], are you thinking the weather will be good enough to do your checkride, or do you want to reschedule?” Wanting to get the checkride done, and not contextualizing the fact that the designated pilot examiner (DPE) was calling him and asking, he said, “Yeah, I think we can still do it today.” Sigh.
I followed, adding, “Okay, I just wanted to check and make sure, because I had planned on flying down to save some time, but I don’t think the weather is good enough for me [the experienced DPE, instrument rated, etc.] to fly myself down, so I will have to leave a little earlier to drive and be there on time.”
I paused, wondering if he would take the hint. He didn’t.
“Okay,” he responded, “I will see you when you get here.”
Long story short, the ground portion of the exam didn’t go well, and we didn’t have to get to the decision of whether or not he would fly for the practical test. However, I did ask what he would have done if I had told him he had passed the ground portion and moved on to the flight portion of the test. His answer showed he still wasn’t taking the hint. “I guess I would have had to fly to an area of VFR to do the maneuvers on the test,” he responded. Yup, a private pilot candidate. He obviously hadn’t learned how to apply VFR weather minimums during his training.
This may strike you as an extreme example of not taking the hint, but you would have thought that if the DPE wasn’t willing to fly in the weather, it would have clued him in. Unfortunately, this happens all the time. At airports I visit, I see pilots whose instructor tells them they don’t think it’s a good day for a lesson, or a pilot who walks by another pilot and asks, “Are you really going to make that flight today?” But then the pilot does it anyway.
For sure, some pilots have more experience and aircraft that are more capable. But as pilots, it should give us pause when another pilot asks the “are you sure you are going to do that flight?” question. Take the hint.