Takeoffs are Optional

Over the past 6 months, RAAus has had a number of serious and fatal accidents which may have been avoided through improved decision making. Most pilots will be familiar with the saying ‘takeoffs are optional, landings are mandatory’ and from a number of occurrences recently reported to RAAus, this saying appears to very relevant now.

In particular, pilot compliance, currency, and environmental factors (weather) are commonly occurring contributing factors to incidents and accidents and must be considered by pilots prior to each and every flight.

Before your next flight, ask yourself the following questions

  • Do I hold current RAAus membership
  • Does my aircraft hold current RAAus registration?
  • Is my aircraft maintenance up to date, including ADs or SBs?
  • Do I hold a current BFR?
  • Are the weather conditions suitable for my entire flight based on my personal minimums and experience (above and beyond VMC criteria and unlikely to deteriorate)?
  • When did I last fly, am I proficient or should I consider flying with an instructor prior to returning to solo flight?
  • Have I completed the IMSAFE checklist?

If any one of these questions raises potential concerns, or if you can only answer these questions by saying ‘I’m sure it will be fine’, then that should be your first red flag indicating that it is not the right time to fly!

The past three years have presented unprecedented conditions for pilots. From significant lockdown restrictions preventing pilots from flying for extended periods of time, to what may now be an even greater threat – Our third La Nina event in a row, bringing increased rainfall, poor surface conditions, and recurring poor flying conditions across the country.

With weather conditions regularly impacting pilots, this creates additional pressure for pilots to consider operating in marginal conditions, particularly as more time passes since a pilot last flew. This may be exacerbated by a pilot often having minimal opportunities to fly due to other commitments, such as work or family pressures, leaving only weekends free to fly. Combine this with an increase in the number of aviation events retuning and it is easy to fall into the trap of Go-flying-itis’ or Get-there-itis. All these factors combine to make it easier to convince yourself that conditions are satisfactory when they are not, or pressing on into deteriorating weather.

For those who have consistently decided not to operate due to poor weather conditions, this now creates a secondary safety concern – Currency. As pilots we all know that we perform better when we fly regularly, however just as pilots should avoid the temptation to operate in submarginal weather conditions, we should also avoid the temptation to return to flight after an extended period of time without a check flight with a flight instructor. Lack of currency commonly results in poor decision making, pilot overload, and a reduction in situational awareness with negative safety impacts.

Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse – Combine these two factors; average weather conditions and a lack of currency, and we already have multiple holes in the Swiss cheese, creating conditions which may lead to disaster.  

Over the past 5 years both environmental factors (weather) and pilot experience (in terms of total experience, currency, and experience on aircraft type) have been identified as likely contributing factors in multiple fatal RAAus accidents.

Human Factors Resources


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