|Whether or not you are a fan of the Kennedy family, if you have more than a passing interest in aviation, the death of John F. Kennedy, Jr., along with his wife and sister-in-law, has had some effect on you. If you are not instrument rated, you are trying to sort out the reasons why someone who is not instrument qualified would press on into this type of weather. If you are instrument rated, you can understand how someone can allow himself to be trapped in a predicament such as this. General Aviation accident statistics show time and again this situation is one of the leadingif not the leadingcause of accidents. "Continued VFR into IFR conditions," is usually how the accident report reads.
It doesn't matter if you're a pilot; anyone can understand the pressure JFK Jr. was under to complete his task at hand. We have all found ourselves making things much more important or attaching a greater degree of urgency to somethingwhether it is our work or a family matterthan really exists. I was a corporate and a sales demonstration pilot for quite a while, and I can tell you that it's extremely easy to be caught up in a sense of urgency, real or imagined.
The person who has paid several million dollars for a turbine-powered aircraft bought it as a follower of Roscoe Turner's teachings: There is no excuse for an airplane unless it goes fast! This person knows they bought an aircraft that will take them where they want to go, when they want to go (And I swear to you that, in trying to get their name on a bill-of-sale, I have never uttered that phrase!). There are numerous pilots with a lot more ratings and flight experience then JFK. Jr. who are not alive today because they allowed themselves to be pressured into doing something they had second thoughts about doing.
When each of us makes an in-flight decision to continue into marginal weather, we might want to temper it with the following thought. If I kill myself, how long will it take to...
- train my replacement?
- find and refax all the contracts that I was carrying with me to this meeting?
- set up a conference call between the home office and those I was going to see?
The more important the flight, the greater the tendency for people to compromise their personal safety minimums. That is why it is imperative to have an alternate plan of action.