In early November 2002, I had just found out that after working on the 'ramp' for 15 months loading bags, cargo, setting up seats and cleaning, that I would finally be moving up to a flying position as a First Officer on one of my airline's medevac Cessna Conquest II's. I was excited!
Working the ramp was a challenge and was hard work, but it was not what I spent 3 years in College training towards. I was training towards being a pilot. I still tried to do a good job though.
At my airline, cargo was a separate department. I was technically responsible for baggage, not the cargo. Although I did try and help the cargo guys load, there was often a lack of communication between departments.
One evening, after cargo had gone home, I was checking the aircraft to make sure they were empty. I noticed that there was still a big tool bag on the plane. "Hmmm, that's not right" I thought. There were no more scheduled departures that I knew about so I unloaded the bag and placed it in the cargo warehouse.
The next day I was chatting with a colleague on MSN Messenger. He mentioned that the other night there was an emergency charter flight by some workers from the Hydro company to a remote reserve that had lost all it's power. There were only two passengers and a bag of tools, but when they arrived at the destination, the bag of tools wasn't there. This was a very expensive charter and made the company look really bad. According to my colleague, 'heads were going to roll in cargo'.
After the conversation, I was thinking.
"Wow, that's not good, I thought ...... wait a second..... oh no..... oh CRAP!....I was the one who unloaded the bag!"
Now I had to figure out what to do. Although I had been the cause of the screw up, I didn't technically do anything wrong. The cargo and charter division did not tell me about another flight and I was supposed to check the planes before I left. But still, being just a week away from starting as a pilot, I didn't want to risk being fired. At the same time, I didn't want to risk having one of my friends fired.
I called the Charter Supervisor. I explained that I was the one that took the tools out of the aircraft. I approached it as simply explaining what I had been doing. I didn't try to make excuses, but at the same time I made it clear that no one had told me about this extra flight. Although she was upset, she knew that I was a good worker and that I wasn't being careless in doing what I did.
In the end, I made the right choice to explain what happened. In this situation it was going to be trouble if the proper explanation didn't get out. In many situations, covering things up will usually make the consequences worse. But still, in an industry like aviation, it can be tough to admit your mistakes when you screw up. It might not be necessary to try and recount every mistake you've ever made to someone else - Aviation is all about learning from your mistakes. But as a pilot, when something goes wrong, it is your duty to take responsibility for it.