A Ship in Harbor is Safe…

April 21, 2008 by Bruce Landsberg

But that’s not what ships are for. So wrote John Shedd noting that in the pursuit of commerce, business or transport occasionally a vessel was lost. To go out on the wide waters, or to take to the sky, inherently involves some level of risk. And the flip side is that we all too often see the aftermath of a poor choice

A flying friend asked if was it prudent to tackle a strong cold front on the trip back from Sun N’ Fun. (Air Safety e-Journal April 14, 2008) The easy answer, often heard around airports is “ Walked away from it didn’t we?” That poor rationalization can be used to justify any poor judgment that had a successful outcome, whether it is a bad landing where the aircraft is still usable, to a low altitude buzz job.

My thought process: We had functional datalink, which allowed a roughly 5-minute update of the weather – not good for close quarters tactical maneuvers but adequate for general avoidance. There were several fairly open areas in the line where we went through. Farther north, it was solid – no way Jose.

Having flown around many thunderstorms and always having a plan B has proven to be a good strategy for me. Unfortunately, you can’t learn thunderstorm flying by reading books, taking online courses or reading blogs. It is learned by careful observation with mentor pilots and by flying around

There’s a Catch 22 in weather decision-making. The more you need or want to go, the greater chance you’ll make an over-aggressive choice. Postpone or cancel. When the trip is not urgent then it’s time to fly.

Bruce Landsberg
Senior Safety Advisor, Air Safety Institute

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  • lee arnold

    coming home from s&f fri.- couldn’t go over, around, wasn’t trying under with possible hail. decided to put down S of birmingham- first try, 3 passes, but excess x-wind.– to another, not much better angle, but less gusts.– metal shade ports available. plane in, then heavy rain, followed by marble hail an hour later.3hr. total.. before dusk, under broken & overcast, proceded to decater,al — to passenger,s home for the nite. just another squall line at s&f time,,

    had slipped in between rain squalls on sunday nite @ zephyr hills.. rain on both ends, but a dry show.

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  • Alan Malone

    Flying to Oshkosh years ago, we had a car reserved about 100 miles from the big show, in a place called Mosinee, Wisconsin. On the Flight Watch freq. we heard a pilot say she was going to turn back and return to Canada because of a severe-looking line approaching an airport about 15 miles beyond our destination.

    My only thought was that I had to beat that line to the only rental car in the 5-state area that we could use to get to the festivities. After we landed and were unloading the Mooney in a severe downpour, I realized that I had just risked our lives to get to a RENTAL CAR! A severe example of watching the hole and not the doughnut. You are so right that, the more anxious we are to get there, the more likely we are to ignore severe weather.

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