Sat here on a sunny but windy day after having cancelled the days flying I always seem to have a pangue of guilt. “Have I done the right thing?”, “did I cancel too early?” or “what will the boss think?” are all questions that go through my mind on a day like today.
As I type this is the TAF for Cambridge,
EGSC 010904Z 0109/0118 20008KT 9999 SCT025
BECMG 0109/0111 20018KT
TEMPO 0114/0118 20021G31KT 7000 SHRA BKN013 PROB40
TEMPO 0116/0118 3000 +SHRA
And for nearby Stansted,
EGSS 010459Z 0106/0212 24012KT 9999 SCT040 BECMG 0110/0113 22018G30KT TEMPO 0112/0203 7000 SHRA PROB30 TEMPO 0113/0116 4000 +SHRA BKN014CB PROB30 TEMPO 0121/0206 BKN014 BECMG 0200/0203 22012KT
The main factor here, certainly during the morning is the wind. As an instructor I am obviously tasked with conducting training flights but more than that I am responsible for making sure the student develops good habits, good decision making and also gets value for money. The advisory limits in the school’s training manual reccomend maximum wind conditions for dual training as 18Kts max mean wind speed with a maximum gust spread of 10Kts, so effectively 18G28KT in TAF speak.
So looking at the two TAFs it’s the right decision, wind conditions are going to be right on or in fact just over the school’s advisory limits. Moreover I have hopefully demonstrated good decision making to the students hopefully making it easier for them to make their own good decision when the time comes and not get sucked into press-on-itis.
But here’s the kicker, having made the GOOD decision to stay on the ground the resulting mood is quite NEGATIVE, especially if the weather turns out better than forecast. So herein lies the paradox, when I look back over 2000 hours plus of flying it’s impossible for me to know how many times my decisions have saved me from an accident because obviously, as I was on the ground, the accident didn’t happen and what I’m left with is the relatively negative memories of being stuck on terra firma.
Now lets contrast this with a day when the weather’s on the limits and the decision to fly is made, “lets give it a go”. Been there, guilty! Fortune smiles, the flight’s a bit exciting but no major dramas. Now we’ve had a POSITIVE outcome from a BAD decision, how’s that for a turn around?
It’s a trap and an easy one to fall into, because the next time you’re presented with the same dilemma you’re more likely to make the decision to fly because nothing went wrong last time. The trouble is it could just have been blind luck that got you through the last time.
Now I’m just an instructor teaching PPLs, I’m not saving the world or rescuing people. Neither am I really cancelling flights, they’re still going to happen just at a later date, so these decisions a really easy for me to make, but still I feel bad.
In conclusion then, please, please don’t be afraid NOT to fly!
Anyway as I finish this little mental download the wind is indeed howling outside the window, the TAF appears to be bang on and I’m going to make myself a cappuccino and celebrate another day I might just have saved my own skin!