Impatience leads to bad go/no-go decisions

Discussion in 'Lessons Learned' started by Tom Wells, Sep 23, 2021.

  1. Tom Wells

    Tom Wells Filing Flight Plan

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    I've been trying to leave Pittsburgh for 3 days to get back home to Chicago (I've been on a solo vacation), but as a non-instrument pilot I've had to continually push it back due to low ceilings and other issues on the en-route path. It's been more than a little frustrating as I constantly watch the weather and see no gap for me to get out. I like Pittsburgh a lot, so it's been OK hanging out, just a little annoying to keep paying for a hotel and ramp fee. Plus being generally eager to fly.

    Anyways, today I finally had my chance. Ceilings were still MVFR in the immediate area but both METARs and TAFs show improvement on my planned route. So I'm doing my preflight prep checking the weather and I notice there's an AIRMET for moderate turbulence going all the way from my departure to western Ohio, it's not expected to improve throughout the flight.

    "Ok" I tell myself, might be a bumpy ride -- but that's not the end of the world. I wouldn't normally start a long flight that takes me through that much expected turbulence -- but I convinced myself that might just be the cost of getting home.

    Then I see a few PIREPs pop up in the area from regional jets citing moderate turbulence. "Ok, well that's not great if they're eating some turbulence -- but what should I have expected? The AIRMET does say moderate."

    Then I take 20-30m... I'm watching ForeFlight weather and I see a couple 172s/182s take off in the vicinity-ish and immediately land within a 5-10 mins after takeoff. "Ok, maybe they were not planning on doing much flying today. Might not be weather related. Who knows?"

    Then 2 pilots come into the FBO who just landed a citation jet talking about their "sporty" landing with a bumpy crosswind ride on the way in. "Ok, well that's disconcerting maybe I'll just give it a little bit longer before I go?"

    Within about 30 mins I see 3 PIREPs pop up: two north of me, one south -- all 3 are planes comparable to my size. They're citing "severe" turbulence at low levels not the far below my cruising altitude (again ceilings were lower than I'd like).

    Then I see some ceilings lower on my flight path which aren't living up to the TAF I'd seen earlier, which would force me to fly a bit below my originally planned altitude. "Not the end of the world, it's only for like 85 mile stretch" is what I tell myself.

    I'm not deterred. I fire up the plane after waiting another 20 mins, and then turn on ATIS and get a warning that there's a center weather advisory for severe turbulence particularly at low altitudes.

    In one less act of stubbornness I still refuse to throw in the towel. I call flight services to get information on the advisory, and only then did I decide to ground the flight and try again tomorrow.

    When I look back at that, and this was all a grand total of maybe 2 hours ago -- I'm completely embarrassed that I almost let my impatience get the better of me. Conditions were below my minimums and I had trouble accepting it. I'd checked out of the hotel, Uber'd 30 minutes to the FBO, had spent more than 3 days waiting. So at each progressive piece of bad news I negotiated with myself that the incremental change from each update wasn't "that much worse". That's where I caught myself and did a reality check "if I was looking at this weather report for the first time, would I fly today?". The answer was a resounding NO.

    Who knows, maybe it would have been an OK flight and everything would have gone fine? But I'm pretty sure that at a minimum it would have been a low altitude, white knuckle ride that was entirely preventable. And when it comes down to it -- pushing the return trip back another day or two is the smallest cost to pay for a safe flight.

    Wondering how many people have caught themselves negotiating down their minimums to make a flight happen? I'm glad I didn't fly, I'm just embarrassed that I didn't throw in the towel earlier.

    (Also, a total aside, but the cemetery adjacent to the west end of the Lynx FBO tarmac at Allegheny county airport (AGC) is a nice reminder of why it's better not to chance it...)
     
  2. TrueCourse

    TrueCourse Pre-takeoff checklist

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    It took more than it should, but in the end you did the right thing, and next time you’ll decide earlier. Getting jarred around is no fun. I recall a time when a visiting VFR-only renter took one of our fleet planes on a multi-state cross country and got stuck in a large city for several days when it became IFR. It would not let up so I had to go retrieve the airplane. He flew commercial back home. To Europe. It was an expensive outing for him.
     
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  3. benyflyguy

    benyflyguy En-Route PoA Supporter

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    Getthereitis is an extremely powerful force. Has taken down its fair share of novice and well seasoned pilots. Good job.
     
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  4. Rcmutz

    Rcmutz Line Up and Wait

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    You made the correct call. The winds were howling over here in Columbus, Ohio with low ceilings for most of the day. Forecast looks a LOT better for tomorrow. Sucks being stuck, but that’s what credit cards are for.

    On a return trip from HH, I made a decision to leave our condo a day early to afford the possibility of being stuck due to a cold front coming from the NW, forecast to become stationary. So we left the condo on Criday morning went to the airport, and proceeded to wait 3 hours due to a thunderstorm that sat over the airport and kept regenerating itself. Felt stupid, because we got up early to leave a day early. In the end, we had a nice flight home, but, the pressure of trying to decide to wait it out, head back to the condo, or sneak out between the heavy rain was a lesson learned. I actually went out to the plane twice to load up and go, but had the anxious feeling in the pit of my stomach that I knew was telling me that that would be a bad decision. Better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air, then in the air wishing you were on the ground.

    We all have second guessed our selves at one time or another. It’s what are the lessons we learn that is important.
     
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  5. Salty

    Salty Final Approach

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    Good decision.

    It’s about my anniversary of getting my IR a year ago. Getting your IR only makes it harder to make the right decision IMO. But in general you’re safer with it. You’ve got more tools in your toolbox.

    Our last long cross country had 4 stops, and we didn’t leave or arrive at any of them when planned. We had to leave a day earlier or later at every stage to stay safe. The last leg home was the hardest, after 4 hours of flying we inevitably had to stop and have a layover less than 2 hours from home due to a wall of storms.
     
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  6. 455 Bravo Uniform

    455 Bravo Uniform En-Route

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    Good job, PIC. You learned from yourself. A few more frustrations like this and you’ll be looking for your IR, with a lot more variables, learnings, and options. You learn weather and it helps with VFR planning. This last 3.5 days of active weather was predictable, but only because you become a student of the weather as an IR pilot.
     
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  7. bbchien

    bbchien Touchdown! Greaser!

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    You did good.
     
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  8. Michael Cutler

    Michael Cutler Pre-Flight

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    Impatience leads to bad go/no-go decisions
    Made the right decision today, but saw the reality of hazardous mentalities

    Glad you made the right decision. Would hate to see you in the Aviation Mishaps section. Thanks for sharing the reality of the struggle. I think we all feel that we'll make better decisions than "that guy" but we are each susceptible to these things in our own ways. That's why those personal minima are so critical. They take some of the decision making out of your hands in the moment because you made the decision for yourself when you WEREN'T in the heat of the moment.
     
  9. azpilot

    azpilot Line Up and Wait

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    Can you expand on this a bit and explain? I do not have an IR, and I don't quite understand this.
     
  10. Michael Cutler

    Michael Cutler Pre-Flight

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    You can talk yourself into more compromising situations because your skills are "more developed." Where as a VFR only pilot, you might have personal minimums of 5SM and 3500' ceilings with winds no greater than 15kts, as an instrument pilot, you look at the weather and you see 2SM, 400' BKN, 18G28kts with LLWS (Low Level Wind Shear, not the Little League World Series). You think I can fly the departure through that layer with no problem. That's true, but you neglected to take into account the winds or maybe other factors (SigMets/Airmets/etc) that would have or maybe should have kept you grounded. You say, "I can handle A and B, so let's go!" while C, D, and E should made the No Go decision for you.
     
  11. Salty

    Salty Final Approach

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    There are days when you’d never consider flying vfr, but you could possibly make the trip ifr. With the IR, you have to be capable of making the call on days it would be an easy no as vfr.

    My wife dislikes our longer trips more now because she’s a control freak and before my IR I would call off a flight a lot earlier. With the IR it stays “maybe” a lot longer. She doesn’t like the plan changing or being up in the air so much.
     
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  12. tawood

    tawood En-Route

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    I don't think the path matters, as long as the decision is good. I had a similar story many years ago in Milwaukee when I was a VFR only pilot. I was just a couple of hours from home, landed in Milwaukee to get gas, and ended up being stuck there for 5 days. Every day, I would watch the weather, and the damn weather man would say, "Tomorrow it will finally clear up"...tomorrow would come, still rainy/foggy/miserable. I'd again watch the weather, and the weather man would again say, "Tomorrow it will clear up". After 5 days, I took an Amtrak home. I took an Amtrak back two weeks later to retrieve the plane. I sat in my plane with the engine running more than once on that lay over, considering takeoff, but like you, I stayed put.
     
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  13. Gary Ward

    Gary Ward Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Glad you made the right decision.

    Our last trip we I had to leave a day early to beat the weather coming in. Not fun leaving early but better than getting stuck there.

    I flew IFR to get there days earlier, was going to try to fly back VFR with FF.
    Got in the air and picked up FF after some site seeing. It quickly became obvious that I couldn't fly back at 5500' because of clouds. I picked up a IFR clearance and came home at 5000' in and out of the clouds. First time my wife has been in the clouds. It worked out perfect.

    Get your IFR rating.
     
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  14. steingar

    steingar Taxi to Parking

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    You bet. The OP is the first person in the history of aviation to launch or come close to launching into questionable conditions to be on his merry. Heck, he invented the activity.
     
  15. geezer

    geezer Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Good final decision, you just woke up in time.

    When the turbine crowd has moderate turbulence, the piston engine pilots are well advised to stay on the ground. I learned that early. The hard way.


    My wife and I, with two young sons, converted from Cessna to airline in Cincinnati, due to big iron pireps of moderate turbulence. The weather briefing had scattered thunderstorms, but poor visibility. I was IR, but that was not going to be a fun flight. Recovered the plane a week later, better weather.

    About a quarter of my long cross country flights either left early or late, or returned early.9 day trip shrank to 5 is still a great trip in our book.
     
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  16. FredFenster

    FredFenster Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I spent a night in a hotel this past winter waiting to get home.. You'd think the choice would be easy but man I sat at the airport for two hours agonizing over the decision! For me it was blowing snow. I did some flight training an hour's flight from home, so I had already flown an hour there in the morning, did 4 hours basically beating up the pattern to make the insurance company happy all day, then was going to fly home. Nothing was showing up on radar but the instructor and I were watching all afternoon as airports to the west went MVFR, then IFR for visibilty. We got done just as the field we were at went MVFR. I sat and waited in the lonely FBO building. Then it got dark, I could look up and see the moon/stars, but ATIS was saying quarter to half mile vis (and it probably was correct.) Field went MVFR at about 6pm, pitch black out now and my destination was to the east where this blowing snow was moving. The instructor called me and asked where I was and talking to him I realized how tired I was so I walked to a hotel, picked up some food on the way there and promptly fell asleep until morning. I think I learned just as much walking to the hotel as I did flying all day.

    Got treated to crystal clear morning skies, -2500DA and a 30mph tailwind on the way home too!
     
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  17. coma24

    coma24 Line Up and Wait

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    What a sensational post. You captured the tendency to 'return to the well' (trying to convince yourself that it wasn't that bad) beautifully.

    On a separate note, turbulence aside, get your instrument rating. It gives you the ability to launch on a crappy day, get on top (in many, many cases) and complete the mission.
     
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  18. Rushie

    Rushie En-Route

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    So you were a frog in a pot with the heat being slowly turned up. Unlike the frog you finally figured out you have to jump out! :)
     
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  19. GaryM

    GaryM Line Up and Wait

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    I have a similar story; my flying has been day VFR, fairly close to home, though I do make an effort to land at as many different airports as I can and I will go up on windy days just for the practice. I'd not planned an overnight trip until this year, when I planned to fly from Morristown, NJ to Belfast, ME to visit my son.

    After two weekend attempts were cancelled due to poor forecasts, I finally had a weekend that looked promising. Morning of departure, the briefer said I'd be able to get there well ahead of the thunderstorms predicted later in the day. Nope; I landed for fuel an hour short of my destination, got an updated briefing, and it was clear I wouldn't beat the storms, but I should have clear sailing back to Morristown. Nope; the buildups were happening faster than expected on return. I zigged and zagged a bit over MA, thought I had an opening to get to Albany and could come down on the back side of the line, but that gap closed. About the time I decided to set down and wait it out, I was over Pittsfield, which proved to be a fine choice. I waited on the ground there for a couple of hours and as dusk approached it was clear I wasn't going anywhere. Reserved a room in town, one of the wonderful airport employees gave me a ride ("The app says we have Uber and Lyft here, but no one will ever come to get you") and went to bed after a final outlook briefing that indicated it might be 2 or 3 days before I could get out. Fortunately, the weather was better in the morning, and I was able to get home.
    So it was an adventure. I got some real-world experience in staying out of trouble with the weather. I was happy with my ADM; no scud running, once it was clear I couldn't stay at my target altitude I landed rather than pick my way through the Berkshires. I was happy to have Foreflight weather. I stayed well away from the cells visually, but being able to see that things did not improve further in removed any temptation to push on just a little further.
     
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  20. PaulS

    PaulS Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Good job, get your instrument ticket, especially if you want to keep making long trips, it makes traveling like that easier. But you still have to contend with weather and no/no-go decisions.

    Don't be shy asking pilots who just landed about conditions. Most of those jet guys were/are instructors and will be a wealth of good information. Ask other pilots. Keep in mind that metars and tafs only give you a small picture of what's going on weather wise and can lead to a bad outcome on long trips, especially marginally weather if you are VFR only.

    I think you did fine, it sounds like it was close to ok, but severe turbulence is no bueno, if it's really severe turbulence.
     
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  21. Tom Wells

    Tom Wells Filing Flight Plan

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    Update: Flew home today and aside from a minor hiccup with Pittsburgh approach (my fault) everything went great! Got up to 6500 and cruised with very few bumps, a far cry from yesterday's conditions.Well worth the wait and the hotel expense .

    I really do appreciate everyone's perspective and advice on this. I knew I wasn't the first person to try and talk themselves into this, but I'm glad to hear that by and large everyone on the thread came to the same decision to get a hotel/find other transport home (and might be why we're all still around and able to post on these forums ).

    In retrospect, even 30 mins after, it was obvious what the correct decision was even if it was a frustrating one. But next time I'll work on getting to the same conclusion faster.

    I am working towards my instrument rating in the next couple months (began ground school already), which should make some of these decisions easier. Though I can see how on rough days you might talk yourself into flying just because you technically can -- even if maybe you shouldn't. But no question it will be a hugely valuable skill set and open up more opportunities and improve safety.

    Also @GaryM got a laugh out of your Uber/Lyft reference. That has happened to me so many times where I go somewhere and it turns out "yeah there's Uber here. I mean there's no drivers so it won't work, but hey, we do technically have Uber". Such a pain. Now I always call ahead and see about courtesy or rentals unless I'm headed to a metro area!
     
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  22. Tom Wells

    Tom Wells Filing Flight Plan

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    The exact analogy I was originally going to use!

    The other quote I was going to use was Winston Churchill's about Americans "usually make the right decision, but not before exhausting all the alternatives". That's how I felt!
     
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  23. steingar

    steingar Taxi to Parking

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    I recall one time getting the first VFR conditions in over a month. I pulled out the aircraft to go. Winds were howling, but they were howling right down the runway. I took off, and within seconds realized I shouldn't be there. Still, I flew out to a local airport, did a REALLY short landing, and has a nice lunch. Trip back was uneventful. Nice confidence booster, actually.
     
  24. Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe

    Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Apparently a myth.
    Skip to 1:40
     
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  25. Let'sgoflying!

    Let'sgoflying! Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    For several years as a new pilot, I was friends with an older experienced GA pilot - and developed a relationship such that he knew my skill level and I could give him a ring anytime to bounce a situation off him.
    It was great!

    “Depart due west & don’t start north til well clear of the storms”
    “It’s too damn windy, don’t go!”
    “You’ll be fine”
    “T/DP will getting too close over there soon. Think you should check in the morning.”

    Sometimes he would confirm my thoughts (which is an important way to learn, too).
    Other times, he’d see things I missed.
    He was a valuable resource at that point in my flying.

    edit: if you dont have a trustworthy greybeard around, I have seen people post on POA for input about flights, could try that.
     
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  26. Tarheelpilot

    Tarheelpilot Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    You’re married?



    :biggrin:
     
  27. woodchucker

    woodchucker Pattern Altitude

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    CFII said that in our first ground session. Still slowly working towards my IR but that’s one piece of advice to hold on to.
     
  28. TommyG

    TommyG Pattern Altitude

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    The frustration of being stuck somewhere can very easily cloud judgement. Throw in a spouse, kids, or job you have to get back to, even worse. But that’s how one ends up in the news. Getting your IR is very valuable.

    Example, went out to Nantucket for a day trip with my wife. The low clouds came in off the ocean and socked the airport in with a 500 ft ceiling. As I was inside filling my flight plan for an IFR flight home I saw all the pilots with their barons, SR 22, bonanzas, etc complaining about how they can’t get out. The marine layer that always hits the northeast sits at 500 AGL and is usually only 200 feet thick. So for 3 days none of those pilots could get out of there be they couldn’t takeoff and get through a thin layer of clouds. That’s makes for a frustrating time.
     
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  29. DesertNomad

    DesertNomad Pattern Altitude

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    Who is flying a Baron without an instrument rating?
     
  30. asicer

    asicer Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Maybe they've only done 5 approaches in the last 6 months. Or it's been 25 months since the last altimeter inspection.
     
  31. TommyG

    TommyG Pattern Altitude

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    I know of a guy that has a Navajo without instrument rating.
    It happens.