I am different when someone is flying with me for the first time. Even more so if that person shows an interest in or fear of aviation. I feel responsible for my passenger’s continued fascination or for assuaging their anxiety. I do this by exhibiting a high level of proficiency from preflight through tie-down. I might as well have four stripes on my shoulders and travel everywhere with a small black roller case. With a witness in the left seat, I take on the role of a teacher with an inherent obligation to pass on the knowledge I’ve acquired. The byproduct is useful to both pilot and passenger: By going over the rules for others, it fortifies them in my mind and—ideally—prevents future transgressions.
This is in stark contrast to my style and manner when I am alone. I break rules with a bit more ease when I fly solo. For example, there is a line item in the preflight for my aircraft that requires me to check for water in the fuel tanks. I will not always sump the tanks if the airplane was in the hangar overnight with no rainfall and no new fuel taken. It feels like a fairly safe offense as far as they go, but it does break the rules. In this instance, the odds of the fuel being contaminated are slim to none. But the point is, you do your preflight. All of it. When you start picking and choosing because of context or circumstance, you open yourself up to a point of failure.
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