Some situations are particularly ripe for perceived pressure. The medical transport flights discussed above are one example. Another would be the once-a-year vacation trip you have been planning for months. Typically there are nonrefundable deposits at hotels or resorts and other time-critical issues that can apply intense pressure to give it a try, even though the weather picked the day of your departure to demonstrate its power over your schedule.
I actually think that pressure is at the heart of most accidents. If there weren’t something applying real or perceived pressure on the pilots or crews, they would not have departed or continued in the face of the adverse conditions that led to the accidents. Since pressure is a fact of life, we need to carefully assess the pressure we are exposed to so we can look at the situation with the proper perspective. Thus an important part of preflight planning is to realistically assess the answers to these questions:
• How much pressure are you experiencing?
• What is the source of that pressure?
• Are those sources internal or external or both?
• What are the potential consequences if you don’t take the flight or don’t make it to the destination on time?
• What are the potential consequences if you try to make it?
• Is avoiding the potential consequences of not making it on time worth the risks you will take to try to make it?
Ultimately the decision can often be simplified to “Is this trip worth dying for?” Or perhaps “It’s not going to help the patient if the person dies on the way to the hospital!” However, to come to that kind of realization, you need to consciously assess the pressures, risks and potential consequences you are facing. So before every flight, determine if you are experiencing any internal or external pressure, real or perceived, and then make the mental adjustment to ensure you can realistically assess whether you should depart or continue without letting that pressure affect your decision.