Yesterday my airline (Hawaiian) made national and worldwide news after one of our flights experienced severe turbulence and 36 passengers and cabin crew were injured, 11 severely. This was a bad day at work for the entire crew as ALL the people on the other side of the cockpit door are their responsibility. While I wasn’t there I know the flight crew. Both are very experienced and professional and I have no doubt they handled the situation as well as it could be handled.
I was actually answering some posts on this forum when I first heard the report and something struck me. Most of the questions we get these days are regarding how much can I make and how fast can I get there? (Because EVERYBODY wanted to be a widebody Capt ASAP). Thing about that is along with that $40k a month paycheck comes a huge responsibility for the safety of the 300 people sitting behind you. Passing checkrides is one thing but when you’re looking at a line of weather that spans miles and is capable of tearing the wings off your plane that is a whole other story.
Back when I was flying for the Regionals I experienced one of these “bad days”. LOTS of severe weather, and LOTS of planes trying to sort their way through it. After a while fuel starts to become a factor, particularly when the weather at your alternates starts declining one after another. I was a mid seniority FO at the time flying with a new Capt. As the concerns started to mount and the pressure began to build, as pilot monitoring I began to ask the Capt questions, as they really weren’t saying anything. At some point decisions needed to be made and I realized the Capt had checked out (they were literally just staring out the window and were non-responsive). Fortunately I had flown with some great Capts and paid attention in similar situations in training so I took over. The flight landed safely with no incident. The Capt resigned the next day and to my knowledge never flew again.
If I sound boastful or arrogant telling this story I assure I’m not. As I said I was very fortunate in that I’d had some great experience flying with VERY experienced Capts and simply used the wisdom they imparted. I also am fortunate in that I do well when pressure builds as my personality causes me to become very analytical.
When I think back to the story I told above I do not think about how awesome I was or what a great job I did (in truth I don’t even know that I did as there was no one to give me any feedback?). What haunts me is what happens when that Capt is paired with FO with a similar disposition? Now I understand many people don’t feel comfortable with these type of questions, but I do wonder in as much as we all want to reach the top quickly and make the big bucks do these questions/concerns ever cross their minds? If not maybe they should.