Sometimes the best flight is the one you cancel
On Saturday morning I woke up and got ready for my day at the airport. The local EAA chapter was doing a Young Eagles Flight event and I volunteered to help. I am ecstatic to help as a pilot on the ground with briefings, education and keeping kids engaged while they waiting for their young eagles flight. The more I have put into aviation the more I get out of it. So I was off to another volunteer event.
Now, I must back up a little. I already had some advanced warning that the event coordinators were keeping a close eye on the forecast as the winds were expected to be very high. I carefully monitored foreflight to see what was happening, and pulling into the parking lot confirmed it. The event was cancelled.
While everyone wants to fly, or to learn about aviation, no one wants to put people in danger; or to fly in potentially dangerous conditions. Naturally, checking the facebook group for the details about the event I verified that things were, in fact, cancelled. Sure enough, the forecast, and actual, winds were too high for a safe, enjoyable flight.
The foreflight picture of Double Eagle Airport shows the winds at the airport as a 30 knot, almost direct crosswind to the main runway. Also, darn close to a direct crosswind on the secondary runway too.
The TAF, terminal area forecast, suggested that the winds were not going to die down anytime soon either. 20 knots forecasted until noon local time.
At the airport the wind blew my vehicle around like there was no tomorrow; and I don’t own a small car. So, the ultimate decision to cancel the even was a smart one. If any flights did make it off the ride wouldn’t be smooth. And that could have made for worse press than just a cancelled event.
It’s moments like these that is a great reminder of the safety that goes into flying. Now, I can complain like the best of them when a commercial flight doesn’t go as planned. However, the aviation industry as a whole is VERY concerned with safety. Theirs, the pilots, the passengers and the planes.
Those of us new to flying could take great note at how the commercial industry handles safety and weather events. If we put that first we greatly increase our chances of being able to fly another day.
Acronyms To Assist in Flight Decisions
There are so many acronyms and mnemonics in aviation that sometimes keeping them straight is difficult. However, acronyms are much easier to remember to spark your memory than straight up memorization. Two acroynms that are perfect for this situation are:
SACrED WiNd – Flight Planning
- Synopsis – What is the general weather for the area?
- Adverse Conditions – Is there anything that may get in your way?
- Current Weather – What is the current state of the weather?
- Enroute Forecast – What is the weather doing during your proposed route of flight?
- Winds Aloft – What are the winds doing?
- Notams – Is there anything special about the areas that you are flying?
IMSAFE – For the Pilot
- Illnes – Are you under the weather or have something that makes flying more difficult?
- Medication – Are you taking any medication that will prevent your decision making?
- Stress – Is there something else taking your attention away from flying?
- Alcohol – Have you had any alcohol or other altering substance in the last (at least) 8 hours?
- Fatigue – Did you get enough sleep the night before?
- Eating – Have you had a full meal with the proper nutrition?
IMSAFE is always on a pilot’s mind and so always one to remember. SACrED WiNd, the acronym for a weather briefing, is the reason this event didn’t happen. The forecasted winds and current weather were the culprits this time.
What Can We Learn
My philosophy at this stage in the game is any event in aviation is an opportunity for me to learn. With that said, what can a low hour pilot learn from a cancelled event?
- Check the weather, now and always. Even though I wasn’t going to fly for this event I checked the weather. I wanted to know why they were cancelling. Not just what they said, but try to understand the data they were using to make the call. Simple things like this, where the professionals cancel should be a clue to setting personal minimums for those of us that are new to the game.
- Don’t be afraid to cancel your flight. If a large event like this can be cancelled last minute than my flights can be too. There is always the desire to fly. Almost a need to fly at times. However, get-there-itis, or i-must-make-this-happen-itis remains one of the leading causes of accidents. Stay safe. Life to fly another day.
- Volunteer whenever possible. The world of aviation is like nothing I’ve seen to date. The amount of opportunities to volunteer are amazing. Be an airport bum. Talk to pilots. Wash another pilot’s plane. Find an event and go check it out. Offer your services. The more you involve yourself, the more you find out how big the world of aviation really is.
- Every opportunity is an opportunity to learn. Take the time and find the lesson in everything. Why was an event cancelled? What were the conditions of the day? How can being on the ground make you a better pilot? What can this event teach you? Even on a day where you don’t get to fly there is so much to learn from. You just have to be willing to find the lesson.
- Stay at the event space. There is nothing wrong with hanging out at the event space even after an event is officially cancelled. If it was at an airport (and most aviation events are), you can be the quintessential airport bum. Stay there. You never know if other participants will show. Hob-nob with other pilots and if any of the attendees show up and then you are on hand to help them out!
All this learning and I didn’t even get to fly or talk to anyone about aviation. Keeping your eye out for all the lessons life can teach you means you are never not learning.
At this time, my next flying event is either my BFR or another flight for a $100 hamburger. The EAA has another event going on in November and as soon as I get more information on that I’ll be sure to pass it along.
Have you ever been grounded by the winds? Has your event been cancelled due to weather? What did you learn from cancelling? Has it been worth it for you to stay at the site? Leave me a comment and let me know how that made you a better pilot!