Last week the NTSB announced their Top Ten Most Wanted List to provide a clear path and set priorities for the coming year. It’s great the Board narrowed the focus from general aviation as a whole to a much narrower scope delineating GA and weather. Mark Twain properly noted that “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” So, what could we do?
A few questions:
- Have you ever been told “VFR not recommended” only to find that the ceiling, visibility, or the timing of that prediction were not quite right?
- How about an airmet for icing?
- What about an airmet for moderate turbulence below 10,000 feet?
- How about the converse of all the above—nothing was forecast and whammo—the flight became a lot more complicated or even dangerous?
- Do you think that some pilots build up a tolerance to imperfect forecasts based on past successes?
In the cautious words of the folks who sell financial products, past performance is no predictor of future success. And so it is with busted forecasts. Note to self: The weather is what is seen out the windshield—not what was forecast—and this is no place for wishful thinking. When your posterior, and those of your passengers, is hanging in the balance, it’s a really good time to assess risk versus reward.
At this writing, the GA community is averaging about two to three fatal weather accidents a month. It’s not an epidemic when considered against a hundred thousand flights, but it’s certainly not good for business or the health of the accident participants by anyone’s metric. So what to do?
I’ll throw out a starter suggestion and you can chime in anytime. Putting out accurate and timely forecasts/updates when the weather gods are in a different mood than the forecasters would help tremendously. When Mom told you the stove was hot it only took once to learn. But weather isn’t like that. As Yogi Berra famously said, “You can observe a lot just by looking.” Our communication system is what’s lacking. If you saw the Air Safety Institute’s “Accident Case Study—Delayed Reaction,” this is an example of where more accurate and timely information might have helped. We’ll have more to say on this in April’s issue of AOPA Pilot.