This is a book that every beginning commercial pilot must read! It describes the pilot career of the author with all the ups-and-downs, and it quickly shows that there are plenty of them, in this story. After he has got his license, he works as a pilot instructor for a period in the small aviation. After that he gets the possibility to start with a small charter company as cargo pilot for the transportation of financial papers for financial institutes, mainly at night, He flies with old Beech Baron’s, a two engine business plane from the 70’s. The horrible night flights under the minimum circumstances, the exhausting nights alternated with sleepless days, the little resting time and the risks they encountered with flying old material, are beautifully described by Rick. Besides, the planes had to be flown single handed, mostly without auto-pilot and that with approximated flight times of 6 à 7 hours. Also, by order from the authorities, the safety prescriptions were taken lightly. In the light of our European legislation, a right nightmare.
After a couple of 1.000 flight hours under difficult circumstances Butcher is hired by a regular company and flies there on the MD 80 and the B-17, a modern type of the DC-9. He tells, without trimmings and freely about his flight experiences on his route. After a large number of pilot of this company end up on the street, under which Butcher, through mistakes of the management, Butcher decides to try it with a small charter company. Later it turns out that also this company takes it too lightly with the safety and prescriptions, through which often dangerous situations occur. Red line in his story is the title of the book ‘Not brave enough’ which refers to the decisions he has taken and which have had a clear influence on his career and in his private life.
In the European commercial aviation everything is very strictly regulated, especially at the larger aviation companies. In America things are a bit different, so it seems, showing from the many examples in his book. Butcher needs to constantly compromise between his personal life and that of his passengers and the interests of the companies, for which he is piloting. He is also forced to make concessions about the safety in the air because commercial interests often have priority and as a result of the de-regulation of the aviation companies, there is the constant threat of forced leave without payment, which is normal in the American aviation.
I find it extra ordinary in this whole story that nothing makes you think of the glamour which the pilots of the European companies radiate here. On the contrary: long days, salary based on flight hours, redundancy schemes which are not possible with us and inexplicable manager decisions, at the costs of the pilots, seem to be very normal things over there. Besides, the author reflects very clearly his opinion about the American politics with respect to aviation in general and the hiring policy of pilots at the companies who abuse the big surplus of pilots by the de-regulation. Finally he comes as a freelance charter pilot on the Learjet in a bit more peaceful circumstances, but many turbulent years at different companies went beforehand.
A particular interesting book with a disconcerted view behind the scenes in the American pilot world. As I said, actually a book for every starting professional pilot, who after reading will only start to value how well everything is arranged here in European context. But the book also contains a warning, namely that you cannot ever relax up there and you will always need to be prepared for unexpected events. I am now waiting with anticipation on his next book about his life in aviation.