Are you a pilot who cancels too many flights?

John Zimmerman has written an interesting post for Air Facts Journal in response to comments from their “Go or no go” series to ask the question: Do you cancel too many flights? To first put things in perspective: John says that the comments the series has received are revealing because a number of pilots appear to be uncomfortable flying in anything less than clear skies and unlimited visibility. In fact, he might even go so far as to say that the aviation community has beaten everyone over the head with the risk management stick so much that some pilots are afraid to fly in IFR. 

John then outlined what he thinks are the three major reasons for canceling flights:

  • We put too much stock in forecasts. John wrote that to delegate flight decision-making authority to an hours-old text forecast is “lazy, naive or both.” On the other hand, he also added that many pilots think that as long as the weather forecast is good, there won’t be any danger when flying. 
  • We’re afraid to “go take a look.” While John acknowledges that get-home-itis is a major cause of accidents for VFR pilots, he also adds that it can be safe for an IFR pilot – when it’s done properly. Pilots just need to have “ironclad rules” for when to quit and must always have an out. Specifically, John noted a late afternoon flight he did where the tightly packed thunderstorms on the ground-based radar actually turned out to be scattered enough in the air to allow for wide gaps between the cells and for an uneventful flight.
  • Instrument training doesn’t expose us to weather. John wrote that many pilots spend the majority of their instrument training practicing procedures and paperwork and never actually get much real in the air IFR flying to see real weather systems from the cockpit.

Of course, John did write that pilots should make decisions based on personal minimums as a legal trip may not be a safe trip but he also pointed out that pilots by their very nature are risk takers:

It’s simply what IFR flying is all about: accepting some level of calculated risk in exchange for great utility. If you’re not doing that, you’re not using the rating you worked so hard for. In fact, if you’re not doing that, you might not be getting out of bed in the morning.

In other words, you could easily find a reason to cancel every flight but then there would be no point to having spent so much money, time and effort to obtain a pilot license in the first place.

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