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Again we follow in the footsteps of the late crash investigator Macarthur Job and focus on aviation accidents. This time, instead of taking a look at forecast ingredients, we’ll look at cases of where the pilots simply made the wrong decisions for the weather.
For years I’ve promoted the notion of a “lazy pilot”—one who’s too lazy to do it wrong and then waste time making it right. “Lazy pilots” do the right thing the right way the first time.
Reader David Novelli asked an innocent but probing question. His primary airport has an approach that says if the local altimeter setting is unavailable you should use one from a nearby field and adjust the minimums. We’ve all seen that, although few of us have actually had to take advantage of it.
Flying with a professional copilot spoiled me. Just calling for a checklist and having it spoon fed to me with no effort or distraction is as good as it gets. So, when I resumed flying GA—no copilot—I hunted for the perfect checklist app. I didn’t find it. Until now.
Call it the familiarity trap. When planning a new route or destination, you carefully examine the charts, procedures, airport diagrams, and approach minimums. But you tend to skip a lot of these steps on well-worn routes and at your home ‘drome. It’s near-certain that you’ll eventually discover how this complacency can be a big gotcha.
Shortly after getting my Cessna 340, one afternoon I was flying an ILS into Modesto, CA, where we’d found a temporary home for our airplane. I’d recently achieved the heady milestone of 1000 hours total time and a whopping 100 hours of multi-engine time. Plus, I’d just gotten all my I’s (CFI, CFII, MEI), so, of course, I was truly a great pilot. I’d then gotten my initial training (ground and sim) in the 340, finished off with 25 hours with an experienced Twin Cessna instructor pilot. Humility wasn’t in my self-image that afternoon. By evening, it had returned with a vengeance.
You’re on a straight-in visual. Although there’s not a cloud in the sky, you loaded the ILS for situational awareness. It’s early evening and the sun is blinding any attempt to look out the window. You transition to the gauges and fly the approach, intercepting the glideslope and keeping the crosshairs centered. You finally see the runway and land. The FAA has said we may log an instrument approach if we are in actual or simulated conditions inside the final approach fix. Were you?