Which One Are You? Goofy Or Daffy Duck

Dale Nielsen


Dr. Marshall D. Voris is a psychologist and aviation safety researcher. He believes that although general aviation pilots normally have above average Iqs, many of us tend to find ourselves in foolish or embarrassing situations.

The accidents resulting from these situations call into question our collective IQ. Dr. Voris calls the factors that place us in these situations the “Goofy or Daffy Duck” factors.

The Goofy factor occurs when we allow our emotions to control our decisions and actions. We are usually unaware that reality has been put on hold. The stresses in our lives build to a point where frustration or anger simply cause us to lose sight of reality. Road rage and air rage may be examples of this. Sometime one single emotional event will be all it takes to lose our grip.

A young man borrowed a Long-EZ from a friend for a local flight. Thirty minutes later it was reported that he had crashed in a farmer’s field. Observers reported seeing the aircraft in a low level turn that turned into a spiral dive.The pilot did not survive. The young man had recently learned that his wife was leaving him and was taking their children to live in another province.

A psychologist went flying to relax after a patient had attempted suicide. On the first of several touch-and-goes, he touched down too fast, porpoised and ended up having to write off the aircraft.

A C-337 pilot landed gear up. He reported that he had used the checklist for landing, but had missed the line that said “Landing Gear Down.” He told investigators that he was not feeling particularly well that day and may have been distracted by the financial difficulties he was facing.

It is difficult to tell from terse incident reports what the underlying factors behind many accidents were. Statements like “He landed long and hot,” “He did not take into account the crosswind,” or “He descended below the minimum descent altitude,” tell what happened, not why it happened. Dr. Voris blames our emotion state for many of these mistakes.

If we could recognize that we are emotionally distraught or overloaded, or even a little distracted, perhaps we would be able to avoid many of life’s embarrassments, including rolling our toy up into a ball of scrap metal.

We need to find a way of assessing our stress level before flight, and then make a “rational decision” whether to fly or stay on the ground.

The Daffy Duck factor occurs when we plough ahead while fully aware of the risks.

A PA 23-250 Aztec pilot decided to climb through a cloud layer with forecast of and reported icing conditions, despite the fact that the aircraft was not equipped with any anti-icing or de-icing equipment. He and his passengers perished.

The turbo charger on the right engine of a PA 31 Navajo failed 20 miles from landing. The pilot carried out a normal approach and landing and when on the runway was told by an alert FSS specialist that he had large amounts of smoke coming from the right engine. The pilot acknowledged this transmission and stated that he would continue to taxi to parking. The taxi included a steep up-hill climb, requiring a significant addition of engine power.

By the time the aircraft was parked there was visible flame beneath the right engine nacelle and the FSS specialist again alerted the pilot to the fire.Fire extinguishers were no longer sufficient to control the fire and it took a significant amount of time for fire trucks to arrive from town and extinguish the fire.

A Lake LA4-200 pilot was not instrument rated and had not flown at night for some time. Despite this, he decided to depart a remote site at night and in snow showers. Shortly after takeoff the aircraft crashed into the ice of a lake at high speed killing the pilot and passenger.

A PA 28-140 pilot started his aircraft and left it running for 20 minutes while he went for lunch. When he returned to the aircraft, he discovered it covered in hoar frost. He removed some of the frost from the wing root areas, but left the outer wings covered in frost. The aircraft became airborne after a long take-off roll, but wouldn’t climb. The pilot tried unsuccessfully to turn to avoid a tree.

We all know of pilots who pushed the weather and paid for it with their lives, and worse, with the lives of their passengers.We know of pilots who took off with not enough fuel for the intended flight, who took-off with a serious mechanical mal-function, or who tried to take off or land with a thunderstorm over or near the runway.

Dr. Voris said that “Such incidents are motivated by remaking reality, and thereby having the world conform to personal wants and wishes.” In psychology, this is known as “magical thinking.” Dr. Voris calls it the Daffy Duck Factor.

Before flight, ask yourself what stresses are currently affecting you, and if you are able to concentrate fully on the task of flying. If you are at the point where you are easily angered or frustrated, it is better to stay on the ground.

Ask yourself which is more important, the reason for the flight or the safety of the flight.

Ask yourself, if another pilot was in the same circumstances, would you be comfortable allowing your loved ones flying with him or her.

Do we really want to be either Goofy or Daffy Duck? If we allow ourselves to fall victim to either of these factors, we are setting ourselves up for an accident.

Ref: I acknowledge Dr. Voris and the Western Flyer and General Aviation News for the information contained in this column.

Dale Nielsen is an ex-Armed Forces pilot and aerial photography pilot. He lives in Abbotsford, B.C., and currently flies medevacs from Victoria in a Lear 25. Nielsen is also the author of seven flight training manuals published by Canuck West Holdings.