Damn. This doesn’t look good. I’m to meet a newspaper reporter at the airport in Little Las Vegas (KLVS). Naturally, flying over is the plan. But it’s foggy outside my bedroom window. And According to my iPad, the current weather at my destination, a mere 45 air-minutes north, is bad news. A 300-foot overcast ceiling, plus mist.
Even the ravens aren’t flying this morning.
But a quick call on my antique phone to the automated weather system at our home airport KSXU reveals a lowish, but legal ceiling. The fog at Las Vegas will no doubt burn off as the sun rises. I have a specific meeting time, so I can’t push the flight back, plus if I wait too long to liftoff another problem lurks to bite me in the butt. Both Weather Underground and US Airnet—my two go-to weather sites on the net—are showing airplane unfriendly winds by noon.
So the only question is: By the time I make the 45-minute drive from my house to my airport, get the Plane Tales Plane ready to fly, and make the 45 minute trip to Vegas, what will the weather look like then? It could be perfectly fine by the time I get there.
Or not, and I could be circling above a sea of grey while my trusty engine drinks my gas tanks dry.
Time for me to make the go/no-go decision. For non-pilots this is a no-brainer. If in doubt, stay on the ground. For pilots, it’s not so simple. All kinds of pressures and temptations abound that can affect our decision-making process, among them the fact that three-quarters of the time when you call off a flight it turns out you could have made it with no trouble.
I’m also grumpy because I’ve not flown in several weeks due to crappy weather and a busier than normal life schedule. But in the end, being a cautious pilot by nature, I cancel the flight and decide to drive.
On the first part of the drive the clouds are low and fog dances with the trees. I congratulate myself on my awesome ability to read weather forecasts and on my superior decision-making skills.
Then the frickin sun comes out. Well, hell. I’m momentarily annoyed with myself. I could’a made it. I should’a had more courage. I made the wrong call. Then, with some nice Bach playing on my Jeep’s radio, I reflect on what I knew, when I knew it, and the decision I made.
And I realize: Making the “wrong” choice to stay on the ground when you could have flown is a mistake you can make 10,000 times. Choosing to fly when you should have stayed on the ground is a mistake you only get to make once.