Monday, 14 October 2013

Second guessing myself

At the time I was 100% sure I was making the right decision. The cloud came out of nowhere and I was heading straight for it. I will admit that my heart was racing somewhat but I wasn’t panicked. I had a split second to make a decision as every moment saw me getting closer and closer to what appeared to be rapidly deteriorating visual conditions.  I decided to turn around and come home.

I was proud of myself. As far as I was concerned I’d made a good decision. That was definitely cloud. I couldn’t see a way through it. I couldn’t see the extent of it to work a way round it. It was fluffy and cotton wool like. I’d had a short space of time to decide and I’d made the right call.
Of course the conditions were massively transient. By the time I’d put the plane back in the parking spot, there wasn’t much evidence of the cloud around me. I was starting to wonder if I had imagined it all, but I knew that I had it all on video and I had a very vivid mental picture of looking down onto cotton wool. I walked into the flight school with my head held high. I had made the right call.

I talked it over with Bob, the radar had indeed shown some transient cloud but it is hard to get the scope of it from a computer screen, it looked wispy and insignificant. We talked about whether I could have flown under it. I wasn’t confident descending that low over the downtown. We discussed going around it, I couldn’t see the total extent at the time, it looked to be getting worse towards the practice area. Bob was OK with my decision but I was starting to second guess myself.
I got home and pulled up the video on my computer, watching the pertinent footage as a preview while I shoved it into my editing software. As usual the camera gives a slightly different view to what I actually see. I started revisiting my decision. Did I overreact? Should I have carried on? Was I being too cautious? Did I bottle out?

I agonised over my actions. Yes the cloud was transient, but I was well and truly in the thick of it. I probably could have flown though it, but I wasn’t sure just how extensive it was. It seemed to be getting worse. But should I have just waited it out? Would it have gotten better? Should I have gone under it? Around it? Through it?
I agonised and agonised over the decision as I viewed the footage again and again, a million thought racing through my head as I washed off the dirt, oil and grime in the shower at home ( for some reason I do some of my best reflecting in the shower!).

The more I thought about it, the less sure I was.
I waited until RTH got home and then we watched the footage together.


  1. 1) You made a command decision and took decisive action.
    2) You brought yourself and the aircraft back in one piece.

    That sounds like good decision making to me. It's better you sit in the comfort of your own home and agonize over a safe decision afterwards rather than be lying in hospital or up in front of a magistrate/Transport Canada investigator explaining your motivations after you pushed your limits and got into something you couldn't get out of.

    What did RTH say after reviewing your footage?

    1. Next blog post'll carry on the saga, but suffice it to say I'm satisfied with how things ended up.

      Video is up on YouTube if you want to contribute your ever welcome 2 cents!