I am sitting at my computer today listening to what we in the heli biz call ‘continuous precipitation’ (oft associated with stable air masses), coming in mostly gentle waves like rhythmic ocean tides over my house. It’s now day two of this. There are lulls in the rain but the local visibility isn’t climbing much above 1-2 statute miles. I would like to go flying today, and unsurprisingly I wanted to go fly yesterday. It would be nice to continue moving my students forward also. Those aren’t in order in case my boss is reading this.
The phrase ‘better to be on the ground wishing you were flying than flying wishing you were on the ground’ plays in my mind on a loop as though my mother is saying it to me. I want to roll my eyes at it but I am quite aware of its truth. If queried, the pilot groups on Facebook would be rife with coulda-shoulda type stories related to the phrase above.
It is so important for pilots to be ever cognizant of the many factors that play into ensuring a flight is safe and that risks are appropriately mitigated. For many this goes without saying but from the AOPA YouTube channel videos I have seen detailing the lead-up events to certain NTSB reports it becomes obvious that some pilots weren’t aware of all the applicable factors. One’s awareness often becomes visible when a flight is canceled. In the training environment, these cancelations/delays can be emotionally taxing on the student in general but especially if seen from certain, more pessimistic, viewpoints.
We learn about the 5 Hazardous Attitudes early in training. One of which is resignation. Resignation can play out in many ways for the susceptible pilot. In the midst of perceived regular cancelations for poor weather a student can find themselves feeling anywhere from annoyed to agitated all the way to despairing asking, "When will I get through to the end?" The FAA teaches that the antidote to resignation is self-talk akin to "I can do something to help or fix the situation."
So what CAN a student do to continue forward progress when a flight is not recommended? So many options: review lessons/resources/sectionals, quiz other students, chair fly maneuvers, plan XC flights (VFR & IFR), plan out off airport landings at various locations, network with other pilots, utilize a flight training device, study NTSB reports, watch AOPA’s videos, etc.
Piloting is not all just cyclic and collective (no offense Mr. Coyle). Far from it. Weather planning is a life- …and passenger- …and aircraft-saving skillset to develop and maintain. An important ‘byproduct’ from attending a helicopter flight training school (like ours) located in a geographically dynamic environment. They say ‘if you want to get better at chess, play with people who are better than you,’ I think the same sentiment applies to helicopters. Make your training challenging so that at its completion you are better equipped than you hoped. And keep an optimistic perspective when you feel challenged!
Flight training in perfect conditions can be mentally draining, coupled with poor weather it can become more challenging but it is important to maintain a positive mindset, keeping your eyes focused on the end goal. Use any time away from the controls to the best of your ability, including proper rest and exercise intervals which will bring you back more refreshed and ready. Stay strong and use your resources and support structure. These are accomplishments achieved by many before you. Persevere all the way to the end, learn what you can and enjoy your well-earned success!