A brave pilot?

Packard

Senior Member
USA, English
Context:

A commercial airliner was pelted with egg sized hail that damaged the nose of the plane and completely obscured vision through the canopy. There were 129 passengers aboard and the pilot made a safe emergency landing flying "blind".

Most of the reports referred to the pilot as "heroic", and I am perfectly OK with that. However the article that was posted on my email website said, "A BRAVE pilot landed a tourist jet “blind” after giant hailstones smashed the cockpit’s windscreen and almost tore off its nosecone."

Brave pilot emergency lands plane BLIND after hailstones shatter windscreen

The pilot kept his cool, and landed the plane safely. It is shades of Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger whose heroic landing in the Hudson River saved so many lives.

Question:

Does "brave" work here? Not for me. For me, to be brave, the pilot would have had options not to participate; to leave the theater of danger. That was not the case here. He was on the plane regardless of his actions. He could easily have been a total coward and still have landed the plane.

Or am I being persnickety?

Note: It does seem to be a remarkable feat:

 
  • PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Let the cynic in me take over:
    The public like an excuse to have heroes.
    Hero and brave is a common collocation, ergo the captain was a hero, and thus brave, because that is what heroes are, aren't they?

    The captain was, in fact, both extremely professional and a credit to his profession. Bravery, to me, means taking a personal risk - I do not see that the captain did that - his job was to get the flight down in one piece, and he did it. Good man!
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Let the cynic in me take over:
    The public like an excuse to have heroes.
    Hero and brave is a common collocation, ergo the captain was a hero, and thus brave, because that is what heroes are, aren't they?

    The captain was, in fact, both extremely professional and a credit to his profession. Bravery, to me, means taking a personal risk - I do not see that the captain did that - his job was to get the flight down in one piece, and he did it. Good man!
    Indeed. I was not questioning the captain's actions, only the writers use of words.
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    Indeed. I understood that and was agreeing with you. :thumbsup: There seems to be a lot of formulaic thought and writing by lazy media types that then is transferred to public thinking.
     

    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    I heard both used for people fighting illnesses, without the personal risk factor.

    I also wonder whether 'heroic' would be appropriate if the pilot was piloting a small plane, with only himself on board.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I heard both used for people fighting illnesses, without the personal risk factor.

    I also wonder whether 'heroic' would be appropriate if the pilot was piloting a small plane, with only himself on board.
    No. Then he would be "selfish". :D
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I heard both used for people fighting illnesses, without the personal risk factor.
    That's true - their fight brave fight is "despite knowing the odds against them surviving were very high" -> here = "resolve in the face of adversity." It is similar to when a child falls and you say "Be brave, don't cry." - and "Be resolute, do not cry." does not quite cut it. :D

    I also wonder whether 'heroic' would be appropriate if the pilot was piloting a small plane, with only himself on board.
    Good question but we must keep on topic "brave". ;)
     
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    Barque

    Senior Member
    Tamil
    I think the fact that he kept his cool and didn't give up amounts to bravery. It was brave of him to keep trying in that situation (similar to Paul's comment on seriously ill people in #7).
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I think the fact that he kept his cool and didn't give up amounts to bravery. It was brave of him to keep trying in that situation (similar to Paul's comment on seriously ill people in #7).
    I think it amounts to fortitude, mettle, backbone or the famed British "stiff upper lip". And while bravery is sometimes (or oftentimes) grouped with these words it carries a different meaning.

    A person can be "stupid brave" running empty handed against an armed regiment.

    Or he could be simply brave and stand his ground against overwhelming odds.

    But this is something different. It requires a different mindset, and different basic characteristics.

    It requires the ability to function under great stress (which is not bravery), it requires the ability to come to a rational decision on what steps to take (which is not bravery) and it requires that he execute (which in this case might require courage I suppose as fear might paralyze someone into inaction. But this still seems a step aside from "bravery" which requires in my mind the option of removing oneself from the theater of danger. And that was not the case.)
     

    Barque

    Senior Member
    Tamil
    Well, I guess we have different opinions on what constitutes bravery. To me, he had the option of removing himself from the situation, even if he couldn't physically get away, by just giving up and deciding that he couldn't take on the challenge of landing the plane safely. He didn't do that.

    The WR dictionary defines bravery as courage, and courage as "the quality of mind that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, etc., without fear". I disagree that absence of fear has to be a component. Merriam-Webster's online dictionary defines bravery as "the quality or state of having or showing mental or moral strength to face danger, fear, or difficulty". By this definition, the pilot definitely exhibited bravery.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Well, I guess we have different opinions on what constitutes bravery. To me, he had the option of removing himself from the situation, even if he couldn't physically get away, by just giving up and deciding that he couldn't take on the challenge of landing the plane safely. He didn't do that.

    The WR dictionary defines bravery as courage, and courage as "the quality of mind that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, etc., without fear". I disagree that absence of fear has to be a component. Merriam-Webster's online dictionary defines bravery as "the quality or state of having or showing mental or moral strength to face danger, fear, or difficulty". By this definition, the pilot definitely exhibited bravery.
    OK. You might be winning me over. I'll think about it.
     

    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    I disagree that absence of fear has to be a component.
    E. T. Seton in Two Little Savages, Bravery ain't so much not being scairt as going aghead when are scairt, showing that you can boss your fears.

    On the other hand, I agree with PaulQ
    Bravery, to me, means taking a personal risk
    I think removing yourself from danger with resolve etc. is not brave, putting yourself in one to accomplish something is.
    Strong stream caught me unexpectedly, but I bravely swam back to the beach. doesn't work for me.:D
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Interesting question and I applaud Packard's point.

    And, I think dictionaries are irrelevant here.

    I come at this from two directions.
    1. As a former journalist and editor covering a multitude of airline incidents and
    2. A former pilot. (Just a flight instructor, but I got to fly for free.)​
    The pilot kept his cool, and landed the plane safely. It is shades of Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger whose heroic landing in the Hudson River saved so many lives.
    On the other hand, an airline pilot friend of mine confided, "I don't see what the big deal is. He did exactly what he was trained to do."

    True ... but as PaulQ wrote:
    Let the cynic in me take over:
    The public like an excuse to have heroes.
    ... and sdgraham's corollary "journalists use the smallest excuse to launch into hyperbole to feed the hunger for heroes."

    The nature of flight training is sufficiently stressful to eliminate those who are likely to crack or freeze. I've listened to a multitude of cockpit voice recordings from aircraft emergencies and the pilots always were cool.

    It's not a matter of choice when up in the air. The aircraft will return to the ground eventually. I guess being a hero is relative. I once had a student put us into an inverted spin. "You've got it," he shouted. Obviously I righted the aircraft and there was no problem .. except I think that ended the student's desire to fly

    We don't have a lot of details of the Turkish flight, including whether the aircraft had the modern electronics that allow airplanes to land themselves. Obviously, the airliner had enough functioning electronics to find the runway. Still, the pilot did a great job.

    Remember - he had no choice.

    So, no I wouldn't call it bravery or heroism ... but I do have a lot of respect for the guy who pulled it off.

    And, since people need their heroes, I probably would let a bit of that get through into a news report.
     

    Barque

    Senior Member
    Tamil
    Strong stream caught me unexpectedly, but I bravely swam back to the beach. doesn't work for me.:D
    It might make a difference if you reworded it. :)

    He was caught in a strong current, but didn't panic. Forcing himself to remain optimistic, he concentrated on staying afloat and saving his energy. He knew such sudden swift currents were common off that part of the coast, but they didn't last long and often it was just a matter of sticking it out. "Just wait", he said to himself, "Just relax and wait". "Be brave."

    He was fit and he'd been swimming in the sea all his life. All he had to do now was make sure his mind didn't let his body down. He forced himself to stop thinking of how deep the water was, or how long it would be before he could try swimming back to shore. "Don't think", he thought. "Just wait, be brave, and soon you'll be back safe on land, just like that pilot at Istanbul airport who landed his plane with a cracked windscreen. ;)
     

    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    OK, you've convinced me with that writing, Barque. I also remembered that guy who chopped off his arm, I probably would not hesitate calling him brave.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    This started out as a language question, and has grown to something larger.

    Thanks everyone for your reasoned thoughts.

    Packard
     

    Delvo

    Senior Member
    American English
    No other options, so no bravery... either in this case or in the cases of people with severe illnesses who also get inaccurately called "brave" for no reason.

    Similarly, a popular criticism of suicide terrorists is that they're "cowards". There are things wrong with such people, but no, cowardice isn't one of them.
     

    Glenfarclas

    Senior Member
    English (American)
    I think it would have been "brave" to have faced the hailstorm deliberately for some just cause.

    A: "We have to get this serum to Nome!"
    B: "But there's a fierce hailstorm a-raging! It'll smash up your plane!"
    A: "Never fear, I'll fly blind if if need to. An entire city's health is at stake here."​

    That would be bravery. Merely landing the plane after inadvertently flying into hail? Not for me.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Two hypothetical situations:

    First, you are a medical doctor with a debilitating fear of heights. You are fine in high rise buildings as long as you don't go near a window or look out at one and see how high you are.

    You are in the Empire State Building to see your accountant and the public address system requests that any doctor that might be in the building should please report to the observation deck to treat a woman who has apparently had a heart attack.

    There is absolutely no personal danger for you, the medical doctor to go to the observation deck; and yet you do have to conquer your fears. Is this "bravery"?


    View of the observation deck:


    Second scenario:

    You are a construction worker on the original construction of the Empire State Building. You have absolutely no fear of heights. (See image below. You are the guy third from the left.) Is this "bravery"?

     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    I think the fact that he kept his cool and didn't give up amounts to bravery. It was brave of him to keep trying in that situation (similar to Paul's comment on seriously ill people in #7).
    This doesn't make sense. There is no "stop trying" or "giving up" when you are the person flying the airplane -- other than suicide. If you stop flying the plane, everyone dies.

    Flying blind is easy, as long as the instruments are working. If you are flying an airliner, there is even an instrumental display showing the ground coming up to your tires as you land. If his standard instruments were working properly, he did not need to see out the window. Pilots train in simulators where there is nothing outside, using only instruments.

    Years ago I flew airliner-size cargo planes in the USAF. All of our training flights and simulator flights were emergency situations. Most of pilot school was drilling us in emergency responses. Emergencies rarely happened on real flights, but we constantly trained for them. I feel sure that airline pilot training is the same. I believe that 99% to 100% of other airline pilots would have done just as well in this emergency situation. He is certainly a "good pilot", but not more "brave" than any of the others.

    The media throws words and concepts around, to create their stories, their narratives.
     

    Barque

    Senior Member
    Tamil
    There is no "stop trying" or "giving up" when you are the person flying the airplane
    Not for you, perhaps, but everyone doesn't necessarily react the same way. By "not giving up" and "keeping on trying", I don't mean that a cowardly pilot would've left the cockpit and gone and curled up in a corner and waited to die. Sometimes people can give up mentally - they may seem to be trying to do something but may not have their heart in it, because they don't think it could possibly be of use. I wouldn't rule out the possibility that some plane crashes might not have happened if the pilot had been just a little mentally tougher.

    Many might feel this pilot was no more brave than any other, but I find it difficult to dismiss what he did so lightly.

    Two hypothetical situations:
    First, you are a medical doctor with a debilitating fear of heights.... the public address system requests that any doctor that might be in the building should please report to the observation deck...There is absolutely no personal danger for you, the medical doctor to go to the observation deck; and yet you do have to conquer your fears. Is this "bravery"?...
    You are a construction worker on the original construction of the Empire State Building. You have absolutely no fear of heights. (See image below. You are the guy third from the left.) Is this "bravery"?
    My opinion - yes to the first and no to the second.
     
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    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English - Northeast US
    That's a good explanation, Barque. It make sense that a pilot's bravery can affect how well he handles an emergency.
     

    SevenDays

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Bravery is the capacity to perform properly even when scared half to death

    Omar N. Bradley
    General of the Army, U.S. Army

    I suppose that applies here; the pilot performed properly (he was trained to do so), and it's almost a given that he was scared half to death (who wouldn't be?).
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Bravery is the capacity to perform properly even when scared half to death

    Omar N. Bradley
    General of the Army, U.S. Army

    I suppose that applies here; the pilot performed properly (he was trained to do so), and it's almost a given that he was scared half to death (who wouldn't be?).
    I can only speak from personal experience.

    When I used to go rock climbing in areas outside my region I would hire a guide to take me up on the climbs.

    On more than one occasion a guide would ask me, "Packard, do you know how high up we are?" (Apparently I was not showing sufficient signs of stress.)

    I would always answer, "Nope. I'm too busy concentrating on where to place my right foot."

    So a pilot, concentrating on the sequence of actions may not even factor in danger or fear while the event is unfolding.

    It was only after we got off the face of the rocks that I would feel the stress of the climb.

    It could well be that the pilot will respond the same way.

    It is even easier to imagine that he would. The steps for the landing are very precise in sequence and execution. If he is concentrating on each step as it occurs (assuming that there are no long breaks where his mind could wander) it might even be difficult to consider the risks and danger being faced while they occur.

    Of course there is plenty of time later for nightmares...
     

    Trochfa

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    I agree with Barque.

    If you accept the other view, then everyone in all the services (army, navy, police, coastguard etc) who have given their lives were not being brave, they were merely doing their job. If in the army they could refuse to fight, or in the fire service they could refuse to go up inside a burning building to rescue someone. Or, are we saying that people are only brave if awarded additional medals for bravery, and the rest were merely doing their jobs? Those medals are usally given to recognise exceptional bravery. That means that the others are brave, but the ones with medals even more so.

    As Barque said, the pilot could have frozen, given up regardless of what training he's had, and regardless of the consequences to him and the passengers. Admittedly self-preservation played a part in his actions, but sometimes people can, and do, go to pieces, especially if they simultaneously have something else traumatic going on in their lives. We only know how we are going to react in life when faced with the actual situation.

    Similarly, it takes great strength of mind and spirit, and therefore courage, to face a terminal illness. Someone could take the supposed coward's way out by commiting suicide, however, many face their ends and the trials and tortures which they know await them with great fortitude. I believe that is bravery.

    I actually think the dictionaries are correct: that bravery is to face one's fears and to succeed in carrying out something despite them.

    : having or showing mental or moral strength to face danger, fear, or difficulty : having or showing courage :a brave soldier, a brave smile
    Definition of BRAVE

    Brave is the most comprehensive: it is especially used of that confident fortitude or daring that actively faces and endures anything threatening.
    BRAVE - WordReference.com Dictionary of English


    My opinion - yes to the first and no to the second.
    I completely agree with Barque's answers to the questions in post #21.
     

    siares

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    If you accept the other view, then everyone in all the services (army, navy, police, coastguard etc) who have given their lives were not being brave, they were merely doing their job.
    In that case, all soldiers and firepeople that feel fear and perform regardless are brave, and ´brave soldier´ is a pleonasm.:) I think pilots, soldiers, police officers and firemen get called brave more often than miners, mountaineers and circus acrobats.

    Does 'courageous' work for the pilot?
     

    Trochfa

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    brave soldier´ is a pleonasm
    Not all soldiers are brave. Therefore "brave soldier" cannot be a true pleonasm. You can have cowardly soldiers. It is not the same as "dark night" or "burning fire". Night is by its very nature dark, and similarly fire has to burn. All soldiers do not have to be brave. :)

    I think pilots, soldiers, police officers and firemen get called brave more often than miners, mountaineers and circus acrobats.
    Yes I agree, that is because their actions get more publicity. However, many people can be brave in all walks of life.
     

    Trochfa

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    It all depends, of course, on one's definition of courage.

    To my mind courage and bravery are similar things. I believe that is why MW Dictionary chose to use the word "courage" as part of the definition of "brave".
    1. : mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty
      Dictionary by Merriam-Webster: America's most-trusted online dictionarycourage
    Did he perservere and withstand danger, fear or difficulty? Yes.
    Did he venture? That again depends on your definition of that word.
    1. : to proceed especially in the face of danger
      Dictionary by Merriam-Webster: America's most-trusted online dictionaryventure#h1
    But then that begs the question whether you actively have to go out looking for danger to proceed against, or whether you can just proceed against the storm winds of fate when they hit you.

    If you believe you have to actively venture, to seek out danger, then you will probably wouldn't say that he was courageous.
    If you think he still proceeded in the face of the danger which fate just threw at him for being there, then you may think that he was courageous.

    The choice is up to the individual - just the same as it is for each person to decide whether or not they think he was brave.

    Was he a "hero"? No, I don't think so. To be a hero, or heroine, you need to be exceptionally brave.

    The point is that individuals still have choices, despite what they are supposed to do in certain circumstances. He could have chickened-out and left it to the co-pilot.

    The pilot said "Our locator did not show this weather disaster, this is why it happened." From your experience Sdgraham, does that sound likely to you? The article says it was a sudden storm which hit ten minutes after take off. Presumably they were still climbing at the time.


    (Good question Packard, thanks for asking it. And thanks for everyone's input; it's interesting to hear people's views on the word "brave" etc.)
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Is it reasonable to believe that a towering thunderstorm capable of producing large hail sprang up instantly and was invisible to the on-board weather radar and the ground radar at Istanbul?

    I eagerly await the post investigation report.
     

    Trochfa

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    That's what struck me as odd as well. Clouds take some time to form. A thunderstorm is quite a distinctive and visible force of nature. However, temperatures have been in the mid 40's centigrade recently in that part of the world, and so I'm not sure how fast a storm can form in those conditions. But surely something must have been visible before flying into it? "Instantly" does sound rather far-fetched.

    I eagerly await the post investigation report.
    :thumbsup:
     
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