Sunday, April 25, 2010

Unintended Consequences

Lockheed L-1049H Super Constellation N6937C 
photographer Paul Bowen

How can something as simple as shutting the navigation lights off in the daylight hours create tension in the cockpit? Well, here is the story.

Early in my career, I noticed all the pilots I flew with would keep the navigation lights turned on even during the daylight hours.  When I researched the subject by reading the company's  Flight Operations Manual and the Federal Air Regulations (FAR) I saw no requirement to keep them turned on except for night time operations. I decided to turn them off during my flights during day time flights. Only occasionally would a co-pilot or  flight engineer suggest they be turned on.  When I explained it was not a requirement, the discussion almost always ended at that point.

For many years I would maintain this way of setting up my cockpit. If the co-pilot or flight engineer would turn them on, I just reached up and shut them off without a big discussion taking place.

Then one day,  I began to rethink my action concerning the navigation lights.  It became clear to me I was the only pilot in the company flying in the daytime with the lights off. I started a discussion with the new to me co-pilot on the subject and he confirmed I was the only one turning them off. When I asked him if it caused him any concerns,  he said "Yes." He went on to explain it caused him to be suspicious of just about all aspects of my piloting abilities until he had enough experience with me to set aside his suspicions.

Apparently, the simple act of doing something different from what all the other pilots were doing can cause serious concerns within the crew. This was especially true when flying for the first time with new crew members.

When I discovered this unintended consequence of my turning off the navigation lights during day time flights, I decided to stop doing it and left them turned on for the rest of my career.