I was given a gift of an introductory flying lesson recently. A 30-minute flight with an experienced pilot. I’d get to control(?) the plane once it was in the air but wouldn’t have to worry about take-off or landing. The day of my planned flight arrived. I’d arranged an upgrade from the 2-seater option so my wife and one of our children could come along for the ride too. The BBC weather app proudly proclaimed perfect flying conditions. A very slight breeze, a sunny, cloudless sky, a reasonable temperature for the time of year. No hint of a weather warning for a good 72 hours before or after. I was a little bit frightened and somewhat excited.
A cautious response
I phoned the airfield on the morning of the flight, only to hear that they were currently experiencing freezing fog and reduced visibility. Completely different from the forecast! “Call us just before you leave – it may have changed by then” they said hopefully. I did as they asked, only to be met with a more cautious response to my question about whether it was going ahead. “Well, it’s up to you really. It hasn’t shifted yet.”
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Should I stay or should I go?
Go, or No-Go? The weather where we live was perfect. No fog, temperature around 10 degrees centigrade, sun in the sky. The Met Office aviation app promised that the fog at the airport would lift before the time for my lesson. So we left for the airfield. It was a ‘Go’. The hour journey passed by in gorgeous sunshine, until we passed under the M25. It was as if we’d travelled into a different dimension. Visibility suddenly reduced, traffic slowed, and the temperature dropped 5 degrees centigrade in less than a mile! “Oh”, I said. “Maybe we won’t be flying today.”
Hopes were raised
Our hopes were raised again as we broke out into glorious sunshine only 10 minutes from the airfield. Perhaps we’d just gone through a ‘frost hollow’ (remember those from school geography lessons?) But alas, as we got nearer the visibility and temperature dropped again. It became clear, ironically, that flying was unlikely to happen.
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We arrived at the airfield and were introduced to our pilot. If we were prepared to wait around for about an hour there was still a chance that the fog would lift and we’d be able to get off the ground. Hopeful again, we made our way to the “Pilots’ Cafe”. I was convinced that I was starting to see further than 100 metres but when the phone rang it was our pilot to let us know the fog wouldn’t clear for the remainder of the day.
The best decision
Often, we make plans and decisions on the information that we have to hand, the advice we receive from experts, and our own ‘gut instinct’. We can set too much store in having to make the ‘perfect’ decision, and fear getting it ‘wrong’. But more often than not, we can learn just as much from making the best decision we can in the circumstances, rather than waiting until we can make the ‘ultimate’ decision.
BY JOHN WILLCOX
Even though I didn’t get to fly, it was far from a wasted journey. The conversations we had in the car, the opportunity to walk around a hangar full of aeroplanes, and seeing a new part of the country, all meant that our time reaped benefits.
And the flight will happen on another occasion – I’ll rebook and we’ll make our way there again, hopefully without any fog.