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I have a family member who has been an amateur VFR pilot for a year. I know very little about aviation but am concerned about his plans to pick up his new aircraft in Eastern Canada and fly it back home across Canada in February.

How can I talk to him about this in an intelligent and engaging manner that will have him properly evaluate the risks?

It seems that it would be potentially very dangerous and something that I would never consider doing but he is a young cocky fellow and I am worried.


Update:

My concern is that he is tackling too many variables at once. He has no familiarity with the plane as he is purchasing it. He has never flown cross country. The journey is from New Brunswick to British Columbia. The prairies have a lot of fog in the wintertime. The plane is not rated for icing. He will be crossing the Rocky Mountains. Airports are not necessarily closely spaced in case he needs an alternative landing due to weather or mechanical issues. My exposure to aviation was hang gliding where it was drummed into me to only change a single variable at a time.

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    $\begingroup$ I would never consider doing do not overestimate the survior bias imgs.xkcd.com/comics/survivorship_bias.png you think you made wise choices and you are now alive because of that, but that night in 1985 when you drove on icy road with poor tires was much more dangerous than your family member plan ... $\endgroup$
    – EarlGrey
    Dec 14, 2023 at 10:07
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    $\begingroup$ I would much rather fly over Canada in Feb than drive across it, as my son & DIL did last year... $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Dec 14, 2023 at 15:54
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    $\begingroup$ Just for completeness, where exactly is he flying from and to? There's a big difference between Montreal->Winnipeg and St. Johns->Vancouver - such as a factor of 3 in the distance. $\endgroup$ Dec 14, 2023 at 19:34
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    $\begingroup$ It might help if you look at crash reports together. Most of them shows that the crash started even before takeoff. I might suggest seeing this youtube film: youtube.com/watch?v=ViO1j1iYn18 -- it is about the fatal crash of the Youtuber TNFlygirl. $\endgroup$
    – ghellquist
    Dec 15, 2023 at 7:49
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    $\begingroup$ @FreeMan Although it would be depend on the weather, the aircraft, and the vehicle, I am inclined to agree with you. But there is another option: to do neither and wait for a better time for a new pilot to fly their new aircraft. $\endgroup$ Dec 15, 2023 at 10:05

3 Answers 3

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The appropriate thing for a loved one, who is an "outsider" to aviation, to do is ask him to sit down with someone experienced in doing long ferry flights in single engine GA airplanes to go over his trip plan.

Nothing wrong necessarily with doing it in winter, especially Feb which tends to be better weather, if colder.

No thunderstorms for example. But for a long ferry trip the main thing, besides having proper winter gear and knowledge of cold weather operations, is having a schedule that allows for significant down time and a budget to finance that down time.

If he has a job to return to, and allowed only a day or two for delays, it's the "get home itis" that will probably get him in trouble as he pushes himself into making bad decisions when it's wiser to wait out weather. For any kind of long range cross country flying, schedule flexibility that minimizes time pressure is probably the #1 safety factor outside of competent basic airmanship.

Maybe ask around to find a pilot that your family member knows, with that sort of experience, and get them to bring it up to them with a "I hear you're planning a big ferry trip" sort of introduction and get into it that way. They may end up talking him into delaying the trip until June, generally the month with the least bad weather.

Not much else you can do beyond that.

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You stated you "...know very little about aviation...". Based on this I'm going to have to ask whether you have considered your ability to assess the safety of airborne operations?

Pilot training, even in the "basic" PPL level is very much safety oriented. Each pilot completing the training will have the means to assess risks involved in different kind of operations. This will not, of course, fully mitigate the inherent danger of operating aloft. Every now and then a Darwin award will be granted to a member of the pilot community, on top of the unfortunately inevitable statistical losses caused by factors that are not humanly manageable.

So in the end I guess, your concern is a viable one. What I would do, to avoid unnecessary conflict with the cocky young "eagle", is to ask him to explain to you how such a mission is planned and executed. Not in a way that can be interpreted as challenging his abilities, but as a question of genuine interest into the matter.

You should get a detailed plan describing schedule, route, alternate routes, emergency fields and diversion tactics. How and when to make the go/no go decision, when to divert. What to do when something breaks down. You might enquire specifically how does one manage a sputtering engine, and an engine that quits altogether. What will be in his emergency package. Communications with ATC...

All of that should be laid out to you in a coherent manner, especially the emergency routines should come without hesitation, accompanied with pointing and hand movements simulating the actions.

Any hiccups with those, and the flight plan to be existing only in electronic form (GPS, iPad, etc.) would be concerning. As John K suggested, a very fair question would be "Have you discussed this with an instructor / CFI / other seasoned pilot?"

There's absolutely no shame in confessing you are afraid. Saying that out loud would act as a perfect reason to ask for the aforementioned question.

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  • $\begingroup$ and the flight plan existing only in electronic form => why is that? $\endgroup$ Dec 15, 2023 at 2:58
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    $\begingroup$ @JonathanReez always carry a paper version of your flight plan and route drawn on the map. Electronics are far more likely to fail than paper :) $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Dec 15, 2023 at 8:45
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    $\begingroup$ @Jpe61 Thanks, the topics of conversation you bring up are helpful. I am genuinely interested in his trip and these topics will give me a better starting point to have a conversation than me just saying I am worried. $\endgroup$ Dec 15, 2023 at 17:54
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    $\begingroup$ @Jpe61 would the flight plan not yet being on paper still be concerning considering that the flight will be in about three months? $\endgroup$
    – Someone
    Dec 15, 2023 at 19:52
  • $\begingroup$ Good point @Someone I'll edit for clarity. $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Dec 16, 2023 at 21:43
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Just tell them that:

new things = inconvenient unexpected (minor) technical problem

It is true for cars, ships, even for bicycles: the bottom bracket is a rather simple mechanical part, it either breaks after 50 km or after 20'000 km.

For a new, recently assembled plane it can be something very simple, but very costly in time. Tell them that they may have a simple issue forcing them to land and wait for 2 days to perform some simple checks, check their reaction...

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    $\begingroup$ I don't think "new plane" necessarily means "newly built". A thirty year old Cessna 152 might be new to him. $\endgroup$ Dec 14, 2023 at 19:35
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    $\begingroup$ And "new pilot" is much more of a concern than "new plane". $\endgroup$ Dec 15, 2023 at 2:29

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