Rush is the greatest enemy

image: CASA | OnTrack

by John Raby

There was never a better time to have set out to make your career as an airline pilot than the early nineteen sixties. Many of us had benefited from scholarships granted to improve the flow of young pilots through flying schools and clubs to the expanding airline industry. I benefited from this system and in 1965, with a grand total of 393 hours and no tailwheel experience, I found myself in the right-hand seat of the iconic DC3. The process of transitioning from Cessna and Pipers to my first airliner was long and very comprehensive. The airlines in those days took their commitment to the training and education of pilots very seriously.

The great day came for me in June 1965 when I took my turn in the right seat of the mighty DAC for my first take off. The training/check captain, Ken, was a survivor of the Second World War and had trained many young hopefuls. For me it was to be the day of judgement. Could someone with my limited experience hope to manage such a complicated, large aeroplane? What was it like to have so much power within my white-knuckle grasp? Would I manage as well as my friend who had been the first ‘victim’ that day?

It couldn’t be too bad, I thought, as my colleague had been given a simulated engine failure on his last circuit and seemed, with expert coaching, to have managed it well. I would soon find out as I strapped myself into the already literally hot and sweaty seat.

The venue was Bacchus Marsh aerodrome just a short hop from our base at Essendon. We swapped seats as Ken taxied down runway 27 to align us for my first take-off on 09. ‘OK’ Ken said, ‘nice and smoothly on the power application and keep her aligned with positive adjustments to the rudder all the while keeping wings level. You will find the control inputs heavy during the take-off roll compared to your previous types and try and keep the power as even as you can to avoid any tendency to swing.’

So off we went! My first impressions? They are supermen who can fly this beast!

I found I needed large inputs of rudder and even with what I thought was full left rudder and much verbal encouragement from the left seat, we were still headed for the grass. Fortunately, we became airborne as we crossed the runway intersection but certainly not aligned with the runway and continuing, despite my best efforts, to track towards the south.

Then the dreaded call, more of a shout really, from the left seat of, I have it’, and my realisation that I certainly had displayed ‘the wrong stuff’.

Despite the superior skill of my instructor we continued briefly in a flat right turn at low level until his scan of the control settings revealed the rudder trim still set for the engine out condition he had simulated on the preceding circuit. Phew!

We did not discuss the event in our debriefing. Ken was very embarrassed. Not much needed to be said to highlight the power of aerodynamics. However, I took away new knowledge and understanding of the effects and effects of controls which still informs my flying today.

The lesson I learnt that day was that no matter how simple the aircraft you fly, check-list discipline is paramount. Rush is the greatest enemy of flight safety.

Flight Safety Australia looked at the importance of checklists in One thing at a time: a brief history of the checklist in November.

Flight Safety Australia wishes our readers and followers a happy and safe Christmas holiday. We will be back online in early January, after the CASA shutdown.


  1. were a lucky young pilot … recall a recent multiple death at Essendon in a Beechcraft King Air for a similar missed rudder trim check .
    Friend recently landed landed wheels up at Bacchus Marsh in a Saratoga ..instructor and student both failed to perform correct landing checks because they were ” rushed”.
    Me ..yep it has happened also ….

  2. This is a very powerful sentance.

    There was never a better time to have set out to make your career as an airline pilot than the early nineteen sixties. Many of us had benefited from scholarships granted to improve the flow of young pilots through flying schools and clubs to the expanding airline industry

    Now we are bringing international pilots into Aust ( Qantas ) because most up & coming pilots just can’t afford tje 10′ of 1000’s of dollars needed to get up to a standard to get into an airline.

    In most other industries in Aust it is a lawful requierement to teach new and upcoming employees at the companies expense not new employees expense.

    • That’s actually not true. Law firms don’t teach law degrees and you don’t get your MBBS from a hospital. Initial training for many difficult and eventually rewarding occupations is expensive. Nothing worth doing is easy.

      Winning/being successful is a rare thing.

  3. Thanks for sharing… Great Experience and indeed the Lesson learned. Safe Flights

  4. The good old days would have been full of stories like this but never left the cockpit! It was a era of fast changes, the Airline industry grew rapidly from the 70’s onwards & oddly enough somethings never changed! Cockpits are still places for arrogance, ignorance & shear d1ck sucking, such is the game of aviation as it now extends to management, the “them & us” is very much alive & well!!
    Any mug can fly a plane that’s the easy part, it’s the BS that goes with it that is the hardest part! Stay safe up there this Xmas, ATC will look after us…..cough cough cough:-)

  5. Good work Walter!
    You should have been around in the 50’s & 60’s as a LAME handling the international flights where most of the pilots were left over from WW2 and you were required to address them as Captain and Sir, and salute as you gave the clearance taxi on departure.
    The Brits were the best!?
    Talk about anally retentive!!!

  6. Great story John – had 20 mins in Brain and Brown’s BAB back in those 60’s after loading crays at King Is to earn the privilege. What a plane, those beautiful props and the wing sweeping back….. Also remember pirouettes in AGA on the taxiway until the right brake touch developed! Good to hear from you.

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