When hangar flying with your flying club members, you may have heard stories about lessons learned from pushing the limits. It’s tempting to make poor decisions when faced with the emotions of needing to get to your destination, poor weather en route, and an aircraft full of passengers. That’s why the Air Safety Institute suggests planning your personal minimums – and writing them down – well before you are ever in that type of situation.
With personal minimums and decision-making guidance written down, it's easier to fight the temptation to "mentally negotiate" ourselves into a tight spot during the heat of the moment. Astute decisions are much easier to make when not preoccupied with flying an airplane, because factors that influence our decision-making abilities change when our minds are busy with complex tasks (like piloting an aircraft). That’s why writing down personal minimums in advance is so important. If during the heat of the moment in flight we rely on “feelings” to guide our decisions, then the decision making becomes a mental negotiation clouded by emotion and hopes of a successful outcome.
So document personal minimums and consult them before each flight. Encourage your flying club members to do the same. This becomes the basis for a contract with yourself, your passengers, and your family to fly safely and within your personal minimums. Download the VFR Pilot and IFR Pilot Personal Minimum Contracts from the AOPA Air Safety Institute’s Aeronautical Decision Making Safety Spotlight, print them out, and make extra copies for your flying club members.
Remember to update your personal minimums regularly to reflect your current proficiency level in the aircraft you’ll be flying. In addition, if you’ve recently earned a new certificate or rating, ask your CFI to help you determine a reasonable baseline to match your new skills.
Safe pilots are always learning, and the Air Safety Institute’s goal is to ensure pilots have a wealth of information to keep flying safely. Our educational programs are funded through donations from pilots dedicated to forwarding that mission. Show your support by donating to the AOPA Foundation today.