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Mar 8 2015

Flight Plans Shyness

Transport Canada requirements aside, in a real world of private flying, filing of a flight plan is a fairly rare occurrence. Some people do that regularly and almost religiously, others do that occasionally, but apparently most of the private pilots (and the whole ultralight crowd overshadowing them massively) never bother.

Why so? Isn’t it good to have a caring government eye watching you flying, ever so ready to lend a helpful hand if you are in trouble?

Apparently, most people don’t think so.

And there is certain logic in their reluctance. For example:

Flight plan includes estimated time of arrival. Are most of the people that confident as to estimation of their time on route so as to be 100% sure in the exact time? Obviously not – as this type of estimates requires solid navigation skills by pilotage, which most of the people only use during their student pilot days – and replace with GPS herding as soon as they can.

Similarly, this precise timing calls for airport-like schedule following – as you absolutely must take off and fly your waypoints as planned. But what if you want to double-check your plane condition during preflight? Or heard some weird noise while running up the engine? Or a buddy stopped by your hangar and wanted to chat, effectively delaying your departure by solid twenty minutes?

All that breaks your fragile planning schedule from the very beginning!

And then, while in the air – how many of us actually stuff the trusty E6B under their butt and regularly measure the ground speed while passing the checkpoints? C’mon, don’t lie – most of you don’t even remember how to do that since, again, our flight school days! GPS is more reliable in that sense, but how many of us, again, are comfortable dialing the right frequency (which, by the way?) and giving the flight service (what’s the name of these guys?) an advisory on your flight plan amendment, while in the air?

Radio which are you going to tell that your arrival at Bob’s Crooked Leg Airfield is delayed by an estimate of 17 minutes? Do you know if they’d actually listen? Would that surely prevent sending a Hercules to search for your plane if you arrive in 18 minutes instead?

Questions, questions…

And the outcome of such uncertainty is obvious – people simply go flying without flight planning pains. No schedule – you can spend any amount of time you want doing whatever you wish… Fun! No radio calls talking to authorities and having your skills challenged… Joy!

Nothing will happen anyways, right? I mean, unless you’re flying a century-old transport hulk over some serious arctic ice, do you really expect to get lost in the wilderness, hiding from bears and bitter cold inside the wreck of your airplane, wounded and bleeding?

Unlikely, I’d guess.

Mind you, that’s again – as almost everything in aviation! – about decision making. And decision making is almost always about “human factor”. And human factor is based on your own personality traits, thus entirely diverse and unreliable.

My personal suggestion would be to keep your teeth sharp – being able to file the plan and fly as planned. Have enough discipline to get in the air without unnecessary delays, and be able to communicate your trouble if required. I find this type of “always learning” activity improving my self-esteem.

Most people go for self-entitlement, though – relieving themselves from a burden of self-improvement, and ending up in the air with no flight plans, and a very remote notion on whom to call if in trouble. And trouble they often get, as that’s exact the type of attitude that’s spawning them.

So many of us – being quietly conscious of their true capabilities – fortunately chose to remain on the ground. Coming to the hangar for some important work like wiping the windshield and chatting with buddies about past adventures. That’s why there are often old couches and chairs in each hangar – you know, to “socialize” rather than fly.

And frankly, I can only endorse such behavior. Those who can’t fly shouldn’t try. Their true fear may be that they can’t land – which may be an absolutely valid expectation – yet reality being that they won’t be able to find their way back to their own airport from five miles apart, if not for GPS. Whatever keeps them grounded, be it blessed.

Those who are planning to get up, though, should rather be able to plan in advance. Or become short-living news one day.