So often in general aviation we hear stories about how sound aeronautical decision making (ADM) "could have" prevented this or that. I wonder how often we get to hear how good ADM actually did work to keep folks safe and break the accident chain. On a recent club activity, we had a great example of how this club promotes aviation safety and how being in the club makes flying more enjoyable.
Back on May 7, the Texins Flying Club organized an event to fly-out to Mt Pleasant to visit the awesome Mid-America Flight Museum. You can read more about the event in this article: Head 'em up and Move 'em out. On that day, the weather was a bit unusual as we had a stalled low pressure system around the Red River and a fairly strong high pressure heating dome to the west. The winds were streaming from the east and south bringing lots of moisture. As a result, the predicted VFR conditions began to deteriorate into MVFR, and the ceilings began lowering even more during the late morning. As the various planes left, most of the pilots had filed IFR back to McKinney. The PIC in N737TY, Sergei Finkler, was not yet instrument rated, but Sergei talked to a briefer and the weather was expected to improve so he flew under VFR. However only 15 minutes into the flight it became apparent that the ceilings further west toward McKinney were going to be lower than his personal minimums and were not improving.
Prior to leaving McKinney Jose Alvarado, Larry Calton, and Sergei travelling in 737TY had already discussed how they would handle decision making. If anyone in the group was uncomfortable with the flight or decisions being made, the pilots agreed to speak-up and discuss the choices and re-evaluate. Having this discussion before the flight opened the group up to the idea of events or situations allowing them to change their plans and effect alternate choices. During the return flight, Sergei determined that the ceilings were below his personal minimums and announced to the group that he could not continue to McKinney. The group acted as a team evaluating options and checking weather so Sergei could focus on flying. With the information at hand, they decided the best course of action was to land at Sulphur Springs and evaluate their options at that point. By establishing personal minimums Sergei was able to take the guesswork out of a dynamically degrading situation. He drew a line and when it became clear that he would not be able to continue without crossing that line, he took away the additional stress of making up a new plan under increasingly more difficult conditions. The FAA safety team provides a personal minimums worksheet in which you can establish your "normal" personal minimums for different types of flights. The worksheet also provides guidance on how to adjust and downgrade the minimums under situations with additional pilot stress, aircraft issues, or adverse environment factors like wind/density altitude etc. If you haven't already filled one out, it's a great idea to make a contract with yourself and to break the chain of decisions that could lead to problems in the sky.
Meanwhile the other planes had arrived under IFR at McKinney. The 7TY group relayed their situation to the folks back at McKinney and when it became apparent the weather was not going to improve very quickly, Scott Kirkland and Gary Cooper volunteered to file IFR and fly back to Sulphur Springs to help ferry the plane and passengers back to McKinney. After landing at McKinney, Scott took some passengers back in his plane. CFII Gary filed IFR and Jose flew 7TY back to McKinney getting his first chance to fly through real IMC. Everyone arrived safely back in McKinney a little later than planned but richer for the experience.
|Scott and Gary go back to SLR||Back to Base at TKI|
This was a great story of responsible aeronautical decision making and the importance of having established personal minimums. You can also see how flying with the Texins Flying Club can enrich your aviation experience: through our group activities and shared love of aviation and the can-do spirit to help each other out whether as a safety pilot, or suggesting cool places to fly, or as in this case - lending a helping hand to a fellow pilot in need. And, three cheers for a great ADM success story!
Special thanks to Sergei, Larry Calton, and Jose Alvarado for sharing this great story and to Scott and Gary for showing the true spirit of this club and helping out!