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The go/no go decision is one everyone from every walk of life should consider on a daily basis. Few do. Mostly because they don’t see the need. What could happen? How bad could it be, really?
The challenge for most of us, pilots included, is in recognizing the cues to making a good go/no-go decision.
Occasionally the signs are clear. This past weekend for instance, a direct flight from Key West to Tampa, Florida, in most piston-driven general aviation aircraft would be a hard no. Tropical Storm Sally was whipping up winds, dropping ceilings, and generally making safe, enjoyable flights impossible.
Realizing that flying in a tropical storm that’s projected to become a hurricane is not a particularly tough decision. Let’s be honest, that’s tantamount to deciding whether this is a good time to head out on a pizza run, shortly after noticing your car is actively ablaze.
Some decisions are simple. Others aren’t. It’s the decisions that happen in the latter category that can get us into trouble.
Primary in our muddled decision-making process is our annoying tendency to equate two remarkably different situations as two very similar situations.
Say, for instance, you’re planning a trip from Point A to Point B. If you’ve never been to Point B before, your planning is likely to be more thorough. You’ll look at runway lengths, NOTAMs, the weather en route, as well as at your destination. You might even check to see if they’ve got services available. That’s especially true if the journey will push the limits of your fuel capacity.
It’s no fun to get to your destination only to realize too late that you can’t get out.
On the other hand, if you’ve been to Point B multiple times you may decide to do the quick back-of-the-matchbook version of flight planning. That often involves little more than looking out the window and checking to see that you’ve got enough fuel. In really weak cases, maybe you don’t even do that much.
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