Judgment, often defined as the ability to arrive at a wise decision, is the combination of knowledge and skill, tempered by experience. Studies show that pilot judgment can, in large part, be learned, and that
learning process starts with sound pilot education. You can also improve your “Go or No-Go” weather judgment by setting personal weather minimums based on your level of training and experience. For instance, using a personal minima of 2,000 and five instead of the regulatory VFR minimums of 1,000 and three. You may then gradually reduce your personal minimums to whatever limits you find comfortable, at or above the legal limits. And while we are on the subject of pilot judgment, it is reasonably obvious that pilots can’t make good decisions based upon incomplete, or missing information. Knowing what is going on around you is called situational awareness. It is the combination of situational awareness and sound pilot judgment that is the key to safe flying.

Here are some safety-related “DON’Ts” for everyone – beginner and pro alike:

  • DON’T fly in or near thunderstorms. Scattered thunderstorms may be safely circumnavigated, but do not try to fly through or under one.
  • DON’T continue VFR into Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC). Wait it out or turn around if you find enroute weather lowering below you personal limits.
  • DON’T forget there may be areas en route, or even near airports, which are below VFR minimums, even though reporting stations are at or near VFR minimums. Be especially cautious when the temperature and dew point spread is 3°C or less – fog may form.
  • DON’T proceed “on-top,” hoping to find a hole in the clouds at the other end, or hoping to get Air Traffic Control (ATC) to “talk you down” if you get caught on top. Allow more margin for weather at night. Scud, lower clouds, and even the horizon may be difficult or impossible to see on dark nights. And always stay above the highest terrain, until a safe landing is assured.
  • DON’T fly into areas of rain when the air temperature is near freezing. Ice can form on the windshield impairing forward vision and/or, worse, on the wings decreasing aircraft performance. Remember, flight into known icing conditions is prohibited for all aircraft not properly certificated for flight in icing conditions or not properly equipped with anti-icing equipment.

And finally, if you do get caught in weather, immediately contact Flight Watch or Flight Service or any available ATC facility. They will do their utmost to assist you.

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