Pilot's tip of the week

Three Strikes Rule


Subscriber question:

"It’s easy to cancel a flight when you’re obviously sick or the weather is terrible, but more often it’s subtle. Maybe it’s a no-go ... or maybe it’s no big deal. Is there any objective way to deal with these fuzzy decisions?"


“When I led the Air Force Thunderbirds, we recognized this as a safety concern, so we worked with a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ rule. If we committed three mental errors, which by themselves weren’t a big problem, but collectively indicated we just weren’t on our game, we would terminate our maneuvering and land.

I use the same principle in flying general aviation. Three mental mistakes, like: forget a step in the start checklist; misunderstand a taxi instruction; or forget the cabin door or my seatbelt. Three of these is enough to indicate I’m just not mentally ready to fly.

Recently I was practicing crosswind landings in my Super Cub and I stopped after just two landings. Mishearing Tower on closed pattern direction was my third mental error that day—and that was enough.

It can be a more difficult decision to make when you’re enroute partway to your destination. But if you’re committed to landing after three mental errors, after the second one you’ll sit up and pay attention, and you’ll be surprised how much your performance improves.”

Have you ever ended a flight early solely because you felt you weren't quite "on your game"?

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