Immunization for 'Get-There-Itis' Is Not Easy

Inoculate yourself by having plans B, C, D, etc.

Flying our airplanes on holiday trips can be one of life's great stress relievers. It subtracts hours, if not days, of travel time, eliminates the worst that airline airports have to offer and permits us, as pilots, to glow in the admiration of our families and other loved ones. But I need not tell you that the holidays are among the most vulnerable of times for succumbing to irrational decision making when it comes to 'getting there.' Or getting home. Don't look for anything really new here, but rather one more nagging voice in your head crying out for prudent judgment in the face of what can seem like overwhelming pressure.

One way to help ensure a safe and stress-free holiday is to start with making sure everyone -- passengers and those waiting at the other end -- understand your limitations. If you are a VFR-only pilot, make sure they know your appearance is contingent on blue skies -- not just at the departure and destination points, but all along the way as well. If you are instrument rated and equipped, be sure your skills and currency are up to the flight at hand. Take extra time to review your routing and all possible approaches that you might reasonably expect. Pay particular attention to the return trip; as your time and concentration will be in high demand during your visit, and you'll likely be well outside your familiar surroundings and comfort zone when it comes to flight preparation. Also, it helps to touch base with FBOs involved in your plans to ensure they will be staffed and ready for you.

Finally, mentally prepare for actually aborting the flight somewhere along the way. It helps to repeat to yourself -- out loud if necessary -- that you will land and catch an airline flight or rent a car if you are not comfortable. Like committing yourself to executing the missed approach procedure before starting an ILS, you need to visualize yourself driving a Hyundai the last few hundred miles to your brother-in-law's house. As my father used to tell me, taking a pessimist's view pays off either way. If you're wrong, you're pleasantly surprised. If you're right, people will congratulate you for your accuracy.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving and fly safe!