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As an aviation professional, what has been your most challenging experience in the air or on the ground? Tell us about the skills, training, or piece of equipment you used to remedy the situation.

Most difficult experience has been taxiing when visibility for runways is down to 150 m or less.

Antonio Aranda
ATP. Global Express, Challenger 604, Beechjet 400, Falcon 20 & King Air 200
Former Line Captain
Qatar Executive
Puebla, Mexico


Getting in and out of WKR (Walker’s Cay, Bahamas) with a full load – 8 pax and bags – in the Piper Cheyenne IV has been the most challenging experience I’ve had. I’m proud of this piece of equipment. I’d venture to say that few aircraft out there can cruise at 350 kts, and operate safely out of the 2500-ft runway at WKR, which has had its share of landing mishaps.

Broff Edward
A&P/Comm-Multi-Inst. Cheyenne IV/II
Reposition Pilot & A&P Pilot
Tong Aircraft Service
Fort Lauderdale FL


Dealing with millennial pilots  who think they know it all is the most challenging situation I can experience. I just shake my head and roll my eyes.

David Sampl
ATP. Hawker 800XP
Dir of Aviation
Windsor Locks CT


Paying for flight training has been the toughest experience for me. I sold my truck and rode a bicycle to pay for my private training. Later, I lived in a tent and my truck for 2 years to be able to pay for the rest of my training.

Jed Keck
ATP/Helo/A&P. Gulfstream IV & Global Express
Worldwide Jet Charter
Cisco TX


Before becoming a maintenance director, I spent most of my career as a field tech rep. Troubleshooting intermittent problems was always the most difficult challenge. Rarely is there 1 piece of equipment that saves the day. In most cases, it takes many different sources of information to put the issue in focus, especially with digital systems. Having pilots take pictures of the PFD and MFD will usually highlight other systems that might be part of the issue. Asking the crew numerous questions on what else occurred at the time is also valuable. System downloads are another piece of the puzzle. There are times where the issue is simply crew-induced due to sequencing or trying to run multiple systems at the same time. The key is not to rely on just 1 piece of information, but to put all the pieces together to get the best picture to make an informed decision. Needless to say, many of these components in digital systems are quite expensive. These days we operate Citation Latitudes. The AReS system is a tremendous asset for troubleshooting. On many systems you can look at multiple discrete inputs and the sequence of events to give you a good picture of what has occurred on the aircraft, but again it’s only part of the picture. At times, pilot input in response to the right questions can be even more informative than what is seen in AReS. While initial and recurrent maintenance courses are a great step forward, taking the time to know all the digital busses and discrete inputs to each airframe system and how the system reacts to the loss or corruption of that input is vital to troubleshooting.

Dean Eechaute
A&P. Citation Latitude
Dir of Aircraft Maintenance
Conagra Brands
Omaha NE


Most challenging experience has been only in obtaining insurance, due to age.

Bryan Liebig
Comm-Multi-Inst. Piper Aztec
BHL Architecture and Flight Training
Sacramento CA


A single-engine aircraft total engine failure at 20,000 ft is the most challenging experience I’ve ever had. This occurred in January of this year in a Piper Malibu Meridian. It started out as a routine engine failure, but escalated rapidly when we began to smell what we thought at first was smoke, but which turned out to be oil, in the cockpit. Thinking we could be on fire, we initiated a 7000-fpm descent. Fortunately, we were right over an airport. My glider instructor skills played a huge part in a successful outcome. We felt like we got help from the Almighty too! We landed on the runway and even managed to roll right out to a parking space on the ramp. I highly recommend glider/sailplane training for everyone. One more thing. Little thought is given to the fact that a 7000-fpm descent will fog the windows. Our landing was made more challenging due to limited visibility as a result of the rapid temperature change and resultant window fogging.

Ronald Blevins
Comm-Multi-Inst/CFII. Piper Malibu Meridian
Chief Pilot
WT Appraisal
Abilene TX


Every day is a new challenge. Safety is everything and one can never ease up on that task. After 58 yrs and 31,997 hours in 83 countries, I think I have seen almost everything. However, there is always something new lurking around the corner. The only serious problem was an engine failure at V1 in an Airbus A320, going from CLE (Hopkins, Cleveland OH) to PHX (Sky Harbor, Phoenix AZ) at max weight. I followed the SOPs, burned off fuel, and returned to CLE without incident. I was forced into age retirement at NetJets. I did not want to retire.

William Goin
ATP. Citation Longitude/Sovereign, Gulfstream IV/III, Airbus A320/A319, Boeing 737-300/200/100, Falcon 10, Hawker 700, Challenger 600, and Beech 99
Former Captain
Mesa AZ


Long before the US Marshals Service began transporting prisoners, Security Transport out of Visalia CA transported prisoners nationwide in their 5 Navajo Chieftains and 1 Turbo Commander 680W. After obtaining the necessary law enforcement documentation, which in turn precluded the need for an armed guard on board, I landed a job as a prisoner extradition officer/copilot. A copilot was required per Ops Specs, as 1 pilot would fly “pilot flying” (PF), while the other would navigate, talk to ATC, and watch the prisoners. That gave a whole new meaning to the term “pilot monitoring” (PM). The Feds would not allow the prisoners to be chained to the seats per FAA regulations, which was troubling at times. On one occasion, the chief pilot and I were in the Turbo Commander, on a circuit around the country with an inoperative autopilot. We departed OUN (Norman OK) with a new prisoner who was seated right behind the captain who was the PF at the time. We were IMC with some moderate turbulence when, out of the blue, the prisoner jumped up between us and tried to grab hold of the captain’s gun, which was in his holster. Just as he put his second hand on the weapon, I reached over and ripped both of his hands free.The captain was trying to control the aircraft, which at this point was at a high angle of attack, while performing steep turns. With his right elbow, he hit him across his chest, which catapulted him back toward his seat. As we exited the clouds performing some interesting unusual attitude flying, I must say that the captain did a fine job of recovering the aircraft. At that point, I took out my gun and had the bad boy swap out seats with one of the tamer prisoner types in the back. The other prisoners thought that they were going to die. I informed ATC of our situation and got vectors to OKC (Will Rogers, Oklahoma City OK). We landed uneventfully and taxied to the FBO, where law enforcement was waiting for us. We all pay our dues in different ways – some are just more “sporty” than others.

Tracy Patrick
ATP. Douglas DC-8, Boeing 727 & Airbus A300-600/A310
Former Captain
Fleming Island FL


Reflecting back over my 30 years in business aviation, the most challenging thing I have encountered is the constant change, ie, life change, job change, multiple relocations, new airplanes, and new flight departments to learn. I was lucky to anchor my career with several Fortune 100 flight departments where professional development was encouraged. Those skills really helped me face the challenges. However, the most important resource has been the backing and support of family and friends.

Greg Hampton
ATP. Global 6000
Solairus Aviation
Sandy Hook CT


I’ve been flying since 1966. I flew general, corporate aviation, and military before going to a major airline. After spending decades in the cockpit of a major airline, it was difficult getting back into general and corporate aviation. There had been many changes, and there was no easy way to make the transition.

John Pulis
ATP/Helo/CFII/A&P. King Air 200
Chief Pilot & Captain
Willis TX


In the air, the most challenging experience has been dealing with ATC’s lack of long-term planning – even 3 or 4 hours ahead – on a daily basis, and dealing at times with ridiculous routings. As a seasoned professional, I see many times that ATC shuts off routes that are slightly challenging but definitely flyable. The crazy routes for POTUS and VIP flights are no longer useful or needed. They specifically restrict GA for no good reason, are often poorly planned, and are sometimes poorly disseminated. On the ground, it is the new generation of pilots. I hire low-time pilots for SICs. We train them at FlightSafety Intl (FSI), and inhouse for general subjects. Our company has a plan to mentor them to move on or become a PIC within our operation. Generally, they do not listen or retain information from us or the school house. Their flying skills are average, and weather decisions and other things they should have learned while getting a commercial license are poor. The biggest issue is a lack of discipline and motivation. I was a sponge coming up, and I’m still a student of aviation at 18,000 flight hours and with 51 years of experience.

Russ Appleton
ATP/Helo. Citation V/VI, Falcon 900/50, Pilatus PC-12, North American Rockwell OV-10D Bronco, MD 500D & OH-58
Dir of Ops
Manning SC


Most challenging situation experienced was a Falcon 20 engine flameout at FL410 over MCI (Intl, Kansas City MO) at night.  Also, I lost opposite side windshield heat. The windshield iced up on the inside, and the other pilot had to scrape it continuously with a credit card. I used the appropriate procedures and landed safely. The biggest problem was getting ATC to stop talking. Sorry, but my aviation career has been generally unexciting.

Allan Englehardt
ATP. Falcon 50/20
MMB Management Advisory Services
Allentown PA


As a contract pilot, the most challenging experience I have found since retiring is lack of checklist discipline. I noticed my training vendor now demands the “challenge-and-response” method. I have found that many pilots and companies want to blow through the checklist without other crewmember interaction. Streamlining a factor checklist is necessary. However, slowing down and making the best use of an additional pilot can only improve the cockpit and flight experience. Let’s step up our profession and become the best we can be.

Tom Greene
ATP/CFII. Citation XLS+
Contract Pilot
Spencer NC


One of the most challenging things in aviation, whether in flight or instruction, is CRM, since, when applied, it increases pilot safety and situational awareness. Also, the instructor should teach the pilot to use training-based logic in each flight situation, since they are all different. An instructor must not only teach and convey his experience in the classroom or simulator – he must also do so in flight. All missions are different and therefore must be planned and communicated to all the crew each time with a good briefing.

Alejandro Gómez
ATP. McDonnell Douglas DC 10/DC-8, Boeing 737, Falcon 900, Citation Excel/Mustang and Hawker 800XP
Chief Pilot
Alaska Utah Aviation
Sunrise FL


Aviation moves as fast as the airplanes we fly. However, people move far more slowly. I’ve worked in many different countries, and I believe that lack of contact with appropriate training can easily lead to incidents and worse.

Lucemir Eves
ATP. Legacy 600
Dir Flight Ops & Chief Pilot
Skyjet Aviation Services
Miami FL


Flying a Beechcraft Baron 58P from YYQ (Churchill MB, Canada) to YFB (Iqaluit NU, Canada) – formerly Frobisher Bay – is when we had a challenging experience. It was an extremely cold night (–20°F on the ground). We had checked weather, Notams, and everything else, and all seemed good. We were at the top of Hudson’s Bay, out of range of Churchill VOR, CAVU with a beautiful moon, looking to pick up the dual NDBs – one on each side of the channel – to check our position, but couldn’t receive either one. We tried and tried, but no joy. What to do? We were too far to return to YYQ with winds, and at that time there were no available airports in the area. This was way prior to GPS. What could we do? Well, I got as close as I could to remembering where the moon had been when my attention got diverted looking for the NDBs, and I “placed” the moon in the windscreen where I thought it should be.  The worst part of this situation was the pilot who was riding along, helping to pay for the gas, so she could log an Atlantic crossing and Europe flights. She started to scream, “We’re gonna die, we’re gonna die!” until I had to physically restrain her with the seatbelt and force her to breathe into a paper bag to calm down. Regardless, Frobisher Bay only had a lower-power DME at 40 nm, and about an hour or so later – phew! – there was 40 on the DME. There was no other nav. I watched carefully for higher or lower miles on the DME and corrected with a bit of rudder as necessary to keep the miles decreasing. It was a huge relief when the lights of Frobisher Bay came into view. Then the tower informed us that it was 0/0 with ground fog which had just come in, creating yet another challenge.  Later, YFB Twr/Wx said that an ice storm had knocked out both NDBs and that no Notam was ever issued. What is the advice? Fly the airplane, use all available assets including the position of moon or sun, and never give up.

John Pappas
ATP/Helo/CFII/A&P. Westwind II
Dream Flight
Cave Junction OR


I’ve noticed that new pilots are good in pulling but aviation knowledge, situational awareness, and anticipation are quite inadequate. It seems as if flight schools are churning out pilots who fly by numbers and are unable to think on their own. Then it becomes challenging to get them to fly an operation as they cannot think beyond just flying the plane. The reasons behind the checklist and the limitation exceedance consequences are outside their grasp. Because of this, spending time with them, discovering their shortfalls, and trying to correct them becomes challenging.

Tong Bee Ngak
ATP. Citation Sovereign, Gulfstream G150 & Learjet 60
Seletar Jet Charter


In the early 70s, when I was starting out as a pilot in Eureka CA, we did charters, air mail, forest service contract, commuter flights, instruction, and more. Eureka was a small town, and air ambulance was not its business. However, being a small community, serious medical situations required either a 30-min flight or a 6-hr drive. The closest neurosurgeons were in Seattle and San Francisco. We did many ambulance trips on short notice, taking seats out of a small aircraft like a Cessna 402 to place a stretcher. We dealt with snake bites, shootings, logging accidents, burn cases, car and small aircraft accidents. Here is my story. It involved a family living in the mountains.  One day, the father backed his car accidentally over his young son, causing severe head injuries. This led to a life-or-death flight in a Cessna 210. The highway patrol placed flares at the site for my landing. The mother and father sat in the back, with the nurse in the seat next to me holding the child. I flew as fast as possible. As we were approaching the airport the nurse said that she needed suction equipment and that we needed to be on the ground as quickly as possible. Making contact with the FBO, I expressed the urgent need for an ambulance to position at the very end of the runway. When leaving Eureka, the temperature was very cool which was normal by the ocean. In the valley it was probably close to the high 90s. I kept our speed as high as possible to short final, pulled the power off, lowered the landing gear, and selected flaps to full. At that moment I realized that I hadn’t accounted for the high temperature. The plane was not slowing down. Realizing at that moment that the 5 of us might go off the cliff on that short runway, I made the toughest decision of my life.  Going around was not an option, as the child would likely die. I went for the landing, hoping for a miracle. It happened! Our aircraft stopped 5 ft from the end of the runway — and the child lived!

George Dodson
ATP. Citation I, King Air 300, Cessna 402 & 210
Former Corporate Pilot
Boca Raton FL