Plan the Flight; Fly the Plan / Phillip Bartlett

We always hear, "Plan the flight — Fly the Plan." And this is great advice — until the plan no longer makes sense. Unfortunately, too many pilots plan the flight and then hang on to that plan when it no longer makes sense because they really don't have a backup plan.

Quite often, we spend so much time and energy in planning a cross-country flight, for example, that we have so much emotional energy invested that we cannot give it up. So, when planning a cross-country flight, spend just as much time planning the alternative. What will you do if the airplane goes down for maintenance? What about a late return by an earlier renter? What about deteriorating weather? And, to help you accept this other plan a little more easily, don't think of it as a back-up. Think of it as an alternate plan. Then, when the need for a plan change arises, you are fully prepared, and mentally ready to accept the alternative.

There is another benefit to this type of planning. How many times have you heard airline passengers say, when waiting for a delayed flight, "Well, if the pilot thinks that the weather is too bad to go, I sure don't want to go." We pilots often think that our passengers will be impressed by our "can-do" attitude. Actually, the opposite is more accurate. Most passengers are more impressed with good judgment. And this is especially true if the alternatives have been presented early on so that there are no surprises.

So, when planning a pancakes-and-eggs flight for Saturday morning, or a 1,000- mile IFR cross-country, think about alternatives from the beginning and let your friends share in your thoughts. You, and your friends, will be better off for your superior judgment.


Chris Hope has taught fledgling and experienced pilots for 35 years, mostly in the Kansas City area. He holds flight instructor certificates for single-engine land and sea airplanes and multi-engine land planes, as well as for instrument training. He holds ground instructor certificates for advanced and instrument training. Chris is an FAA Gold Seal Instructor and a Master Certified Flight Instructor and serves as a member of the FAA-ST in the Kansas City area. Find more tips at


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