Video: Pilot decision making

GOPR0054.00_04_36_15.Still001Light aircraft flying is all about making decisions.  Be it about the weather, which route to fly, how much fuel to carry etc etc.  Viewers from my YouTube channel have told me that they really enjoy watching me make those decisions in my videos, so this film explores that process in more detail.

I had planned to fly from Biggin Hill to Northampton Sywell Aerodrome.  Even before arriving at the airport I’d spent several hours planning the trip.  Plotting the route, calculating the course and wind correction, checking Notams, looking up airspace restrictions, and studying the weather charts and forecasts.  When at the airport, the cameras were rigged, and I did the pre-flight checks on the PA28, but it increasingly looked as if the weather was not going to improve fast enough for me to have the time to land away in Northampton.  I was now considering flying there, but doing a touch-and-go landing there instead.


First thing, the visibility at Biggin Hill was poor – no greater that 4km.  Only just above the minimum required for a private pilot.  I have an IR(R) which entitles me to fly VFR in visibility as low as 1500 metres.  Not that I’d want to.  The visibility was forecast to improve substantially, but in reality, the speed of improvement was slower than forecast.

1457954860829After 2 hours waiting for the weather to improve, I was almost ready to depart for Northampton.  But when I turned on the aircraft’s avionics for the first time to check the ATIS, I spotted an error message on the radio navigation equipment.  I had been planning to rely heavily on VOR tracking for this trip, to help me weave around London, Luton and Stansted controlled airspace.  I had a second navigation radio, but if one was faulty, could the second box be relied upon?  The second unit is an older model, and doesn’t benefit from a sophisticated self test routine on initialisation.  Now, even touch and gos at Northampton didn’t look like a viable option.

I really wanted to fly today, so I decided to opt for a safe set of circuits (landing practice) at Biggin Hill.  I managed to get airborne just after midday, three hours after arriving at the airport.  But the pilot decision making didn’t end there.  Once I’d taken off, the turbulent air around the circuit at 1000ft made handling the aircraft quite difficult.  After one trip around the block, I decided to land and called it a day.

Not all flying days are as unproductive as this one, but this video shows how adaptable and decisive you need to be.  After 2-3 hours planning at home, and 3 hours prepping at the airfield, this time, I only managed 5 minutes in the air!

Video: Pilot decision making