Bumpy landings - the importance of a Plan B in aviation and medicine

Last week was another small watershed for me. I flew a light aircraft for the first time in a year.

It was of course with an instructor and I am now checked out and legal to fly for another year. I plan to fly again next week, with friends.

The hiatus was because the last time I flew I didn't do it well.

The weather, a year ago, had been admittedly not great, gusty and bumpy, and I didn't handle it well and the consequence was my inner confidence was damaged.

Yesterday the weather was perfect. No clouds and almost no wind with excellent visibility.

Flying light aircraft is quite high risk. Only one engine is not nearly enough!

Fresh in my mind yesterday was the picture of the burning crashed aircraft splattered across the M4 in South Wales. They all survived. Phew.

The instructor instils confidence. He used to fly and instruct on Concorde. Knows a thing or two and particularly how to rebuild confidence.

I've been flying solo since 1967 close to 52 years but that balance between confidence and arrogance is a very thin line.

But there's other stuff in play here.

I fly with a small flying club. Their insurance dictates I need to do three landings in 90 days to be qualified.

The National regulator – the CAA – requires that I fly with an instructor once a year and fly 12 hours in the next 12 months.

Oh, and I need to pass a basic medical too. Last week I flew across country, just a few minutes to get used to handling again, then flew several circuits and landings including two non-normal ones.

One was without landing flaps – practising in case they fail one day and another simulating engine failure. The instructor checks I can do it but also it builds my confidence.

Some of those I meet who criticise the comparison between aviation and medicine would do well to consider all that.

The other main message which fits anywhere – always have a plan B.

Like knowing I could cope with a mechanical malfunction or weather-related problems.

Much as I love flying the one thing I always do is consider what could go wrong and try to be one step ahead. I don't always succeed of course and that's when I get worried.

No, it's not paranoia it's experience and good training.
Learning from near-misses
Culture and climate

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