Pilot's tip of the week

Is This Flight Too Risky?


Subscriber question:

"I have no trouble canceling a flight when it’s obviously high risk, especially if it’s an IFR flight. But what about flights where it’s not so cut-and-dry? I feel like I just make an arbitrary decision." — Dave R.


“About the only thing in aviation that’s static is the airplane mounted on a pedestal at the entrance to the airport. Everything else is almost always in flux. That’s especially true of one’s risk tolerance—which can be dangerously susceptible to subjectivity.

There are many things that one must take into consideration when making the go/no-go decision for any flight, especially an IFR flight. These include real proficiency (as opposed to legal currency), one’s physiological state, familiarity with the aircraft and its equipment, and hazardous attitudes that might preclude wise decision making. These (among others) are things that should be taken into consideration, and it can be a daunting task. There’s a tool that I use to help ensure that my personal minimums for the fight are based on objective criteria. It’s known as a FRAT.

No, I am not speaking of a college partying organization, but a Flight Risk Assessment Tool. There are many of these available online. The best of them assign numerical values to all the elements of the PAVE checklist, referring to the Pilot, Aircraft, enVironment, and External pressures. The FRAT assigns numerical scores to all the elements of a flight, including recency of experience; physiological state; weather; familiarity with, and condition of, the equipment; the types of airspace; the time of day or night; and so on. The individual scores are totaled, and the total score will determine whether to go … or not.

Flight Risk Assessment Tools let any pilot go through an objective assessment of all the risk-related elements that must be considered prior to a flight, including all those elements that change over time.”

Download a FRAT from NBAA or the FAA.

Do you use a flight risk-assessment tool?

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