Learning Experiences

October 2015 Issue




Learning Experiences

Have you encountered a situation or hazardous condition that yielded lessons on how to better manage the risks involved in flying? Do you have an experience to share with Aviation Safety’s readers about an occasion that taught you something significant about ways to conduct safer flight operations? If so, we want to hear about it.

Diversion Decisions

It was a stormy day over South Florida, and just as I was near my destination, a late afternoon thundershower decided to camp out over it. The storm wasn’t moving, so I diverted to a nearby non-towered airport. I’d never visited it before, so I rationalized it: I was multi-tasking.

My divert field was VFR, so I cancelled IFR and tuned the CTAF. I was number two for the airport until a bizjet called in on an umpteen-mile final and the guy in front decided to let him go first. Once I finally landed, I discovered a pleasant, well-equipped FBO and settled in to wait for the destination’s weather to improve.

Checking weather from the FBO lounge, it soon became clear the storm over my destination was moving off as it dissipated. But it also became clear it was moving toward my divert field. Wunnerful.

Another pilot, the guy who landed in front of me, was there for the same basic reason, so we introduced ourselves and swapped war stories. But I was growing restless. Soon, night had fallen, adding another element to planning my final leg home.

Ultimately, the storm did move toward my divert field, and dissipated into an area of light rain right over it. The short hop home would be smooth and mostly clear, but I faced a night IFR departure from an unfamiliar and non-towered airport before I could sleep in my own bed that night.

After one last check of the weather, I filed and preflighted, taxied out and launched. I was in IMC for maybe five minutes before breaking out and canceling IFR. I’d “wasted” two hours of my life, but I was safe and sound, on the ground, and home.

The decision to divert was an easy one, as was my choice of a new destination. Once on the ground, deciding when and how to leave was the hard part. I hadn’t planned on an IFR takeoff and an approach to get home, but those were the cards I was dealt. I learned to stay relaxed and let the correct decision I made earlier—to divert in the first place—play out.

— Anymouse