A friend of mine pointed out the similarities between my two passions, namely politics and flying. After some thought I concluded that he was on to something.
In flying, one rule dominates- PIC or Pilot in Command. Whether you fly solo in a small single engine airplane, fly with passengers or fly a 747, the pilot is always in command.
When you plan a flight you have to follow the rules as they apply to you. You have to take into account outside factors such as weather, turbulence, the skill of your crew members etc. If that flight is not successful, leaves late or runs late or if unfortunately there is an incident or accident, pilot in command comes into play.
What did the pilot know? When did they know it? What steps did they take? Were they responsible for the accident? As a pilot the last thing you want to hear from the authorities is that the accident was caused by “pilot error”. That may result in sanctions that can range from ending your career, to a suspension, to a fine. It is also true that an investigation may show that what happened was out of the pilot’s control, in which case the pilot can not be blamed for what happened. Notice, it doesn’t say the pilot is automatically forgiven because a crew member screwed up and didn’t do their job right. What did the pilot know and how did they handle it?
Let’s look at the Guergis affair now. Go back to Charlottetown and the temper tantrum. Minister in command is the same as pilot in command. A minister is responsible for their actions. As with a pilot, someone in authority would investigate the incident to see if sanctions were warranted. In this instance Guergis had to apologize. In effect an admission of “pilot error”. If you are late for takeoff or leave things to the last minute you can’t blame your crew. There is no doubt that for both a pilot and a minister, those in charge would be watching you pretty closely after that incident.
Since then we have all the media stories and allegations surrounding her husband. It still boils down to "pilot in command". If you have a crew member or passenger causing problems, how did the pilot act? In this case what did the minister know about her husband’s activities? Did she make the wrong command decisions? When did she first find out or learn about the allegations and incidents in the media? How did she handle the allegations in the newspapers or the House? What steps did she take or not take? When did she first advise authorities that there was a problem? A pilot and a minister can only act on the information available to them? IE what had Mr Jaffer told her? Had staff or others warned her?
The same holds true for the latest speculation about off-shore bank accounts. If the speculation turns out to be true, what did the minister know, what advice did she have? On what information was action taken or not taken If they are not true, then it is not pilot error.
When a pilot is being investigated for a potentially career ending infraction, you have a choice. Follow the lead of head office or look after yourself. It remains to be seen what the former minister will do.
As with any aircraft incident or accident, there is always intense speculation, unproven allegations and gossip. What we don’t know is was it pilot error? Or was the situation out of the control of the pilot? Time will tell, but in all likelihood this former minister will be grounded for a long time to come.