The Accident That Didn't Happen (Breaking the accident chain through experience and knowing your limits.)

FindaPilot guest post by:

Clint White

Clint White

CEO Jet Right Aviation Services/Jet Sales Representative- SkyWater Group
FindaPilot Member since 2008

As any good pilot knows, flying can be a stressful job. Some days the skies are sunny, the winds light and everything goes according to plan. Then, there are the days almost nothing goes you way. Lousy, weather and late schedules can put a stress on even the best of pilots. Wether those days are good or bad, it is the responsibility of each and every pilot to maintain the highest levels of safety and of these, the most important is recognizing when risk factors occur and the accident chain begins to build. It is imperative that you recognize the building of that chain and to make sure you break it BEFORE that accident happens.

Case in point.... I was flying a trip the other day for my client. The weather was good with scattered thunderstorms, but the departure would be later in the day. I estimated there would still be more than enough daylight to get to the destination before sundown (the field was day VFR only) and I always take time to plan my fuel and flight for any contingency, but sometimes the best laid plans go awry…

The trip was international, so we had to make a stop at customs. The process was slow and took much longer than planned. When we departed for the destination the sun was already going down, but it still looked like we could make the airport before sunset, but you cant say the pressure wasn’t on to complete the mission.

About 20 miles from the destination things were getting dark quickly then I noticed a pretty good line of weather between us and the destination. It was tempting to try to make it before it was dark, in the weather, and with your own personal need to keep the client happy to get to the airport, but this is where experience kicks in.

As a pilot you need to see the risk factors quickly building, the links in the chain being forged by the second. That’s when your training, your experience, and frankly that little voice in your head starts to say that “This is not legal, not safe and too close to the edge of your limits” and that is exactly what mine was telling me.

Fortunately I already had by “plan B” in mind and knew of an instrument airport nearby that we could land safely at night. I told my client that due to the multiple factors we were dealing with we would be diverting to that airport, spend the night and head to the destination airport in the morning. He's  a great client and had no problem with that idea. So instead of trying for force the airplane to the destination we “broke the chain”, diverted to the other airport, and had a nice dinner with a good rest. Early the next morning we proceeded under daylight and good weather to the destination airport.

In your current or new position keep looking for the building of those links in the chain. Recognize the risk factors, learn to break the chain and make sure that your flight becomes “the accident that didn’t happen”``

Have you had a similar experience in your flight career? Please feel free to submit your story in the comments section below.