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By jimrooney
I was thinking about this on the way up to takeoff today.
I gave myself points for recognizing it.
It doesn't make things easier... I don't think anything does... but it does help to recognize when you're in it.

The hardest thing we do is not simply "not flying". That's part of it, but the devil is in the details.

It's easy when it's obvious. It's easy when it's someone else. It's easy to see after the fact, no matter if you chose right or wrong.

What's not easy is when you're in the hot seat.
It's not "recognizing bad conditions", bad mental states, or any of the little things that we like to label so we can tick off boxes on our little lists.

It's a very personal decision.
I call it "walking the line".

It's easy to sit back in a nice comfortable chair and talk theory. To say "any time you don't feel 100%, don't go", but I call this hogwash. None of us would be flying today if we truly believed that.

Allow me to illustrate.
Think back to your first high flight. Can you honestly tell me you felt 100%?
Of course you can't (anyone that says they can is full of it).
You'd never done a high flight in your life. There is absolutely no way that was comfortable.

That's what I'm talking about.
That's "walking the line".

Now I fly nearly every day. I'm as current as they get. I'm no rock star, but I do have some skills. I've got good equipment and I know how to use it. I live at a flying site that I fly constantly.
And it doesn't mean squat!

In fact, any time I start thinking it does, I have to step back and give myself some ticks on the "scary" side of the scales.
"Confidence... that feeling you get before you truly understand the situation".

It doesn't mean squat because the actual problem remains the same. 4 wheel drive doesn't get you out of the mud... it lets you get stuck in deeper mud.

See the conditions we fly in safely depend a lot on us. All that our skill and equipment do is change where that line between go and no-go is. I have upper limits just the same as anyone else. They're different than anyone else too, which makes it a very personal decision.

And I'm sorry to tell you.
It does not get easier.

The need to fly is no less. That draw to get in the air colors my decisions as it always has. I gave myself points today simply because I recognized that I was walking the line and had he presence of mind to know that the desire to fly was coloring my perceptions. Again, it did not in any way make things easier. It does help you to make smarter decisions, but damn I wanted to fly!

And it wasn't a lack of flying pushing me along. I'd done two flights already. Like I said, it doesn't get easier.

Here's where the real trick of it comes in.
I've flown strong conditions like this before. Same direction, same character, same site, etc. But that doesn't matter. All that matters is now. Do I "feel the love"?

Now it's easy to say "if you're thinking like that, then don't fly". But again, hogwash. This is the demon we wrestle with. Things aren't always black and white and you're kidding yourself if you think they are. I walk the line for a living. It is by far the hardest thing we do. Again, none of us would be flying if we didn't.

Since it's such a personal decision, everyone deals with it in a different manner. Please find what works for you. I can describe what works for me, but you must find your own way.

I slow things down. I decide to make decisions. I will hike up this far, then wait and see... I will setup and see... la la la. All with the understanding as well that each step colors the next. The further you drive to a flying site, the better the weather will look. If you setup, the weather will look better. The more battons your glider has, the better things look... etc.

I hiked up to launch... it's about 10 minutes to the takeoff and pretty steep. I could hear the wind in the trees. I knew the wind in the valley. I was listening to the gusts. I was writing this post in my head... I'd been here before a few times. Same site, same type of weather. Sometimes I've flown, and sometimes not. Often it was good when I did. I'd be lying if I said it always was. The bad flights weren't horrible, but you know when you've chosen wrong. You know when you've pushed things just that little bit too far.

I was very much wondering what today would be.
Others had flown today, but much earlier. It was very late day now.
At each stop, I was happy enough to go to the next one and see. Not super happy, but happy enough.

I got to takeoff.
And had a seat.
If I've learned one thing, it's to wait.
Some days you rock up to takeoff and just pop off. Those are the easy days. I knew this wasn't one of them. So I waited.
Not the kind of wait where you're talking yourself into something.
This was about getting a good feel for the character of the air.
Letting all the "gotta go!" settle down.
One of my favorite tricks a buddy of mine uses is he makes a sandwich. Absolutely brilliant.

Then, after a little bit.. time for the call.
And I never question it after I make it. That's an other huge thing in my book. If you pull the pin (as we say), you don't look back. If you fly, you fly.

As I said, I wrote this in my head before the decision. It's easy to write this stuff if you pull the pin. There's a bit of self-congratulation in that. It's easy to write when you call it wrong ("there I was, I thought I was going to die"). Nobody really writes much about when it's a tough call and you do fly... not much story in that ("what were you nervous about?").

Today I pulled the pin.
But walking down isn't the hard bit.
Walking the line is.

It's easier on the way down. The rosy colored glasses are gone. It's easier to see clearly. But only if you don't look back. If you do allow yourself to look back... you've put the rosy glasses back on. You're back in "decision mode" and your desire to fly will taint your judgment again. If I walk away, I walk away.

The decision when things aren't perfect is the tricky bit.
I hope that I can continue to make the right choices.
I hope you do as well.

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By SkyPilot
Sage advice Jim! THANK YOU. Taken to heart it will probably save someone's life - like MY OWN! :lol:

Perhaps Shakespeare said it right (and I'm taking some liberty here):

To fly, or not to fly, that is the question.
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By SkyPilot
Jim, I was thinking about this post and what came to mind is an incident I should like to share. Having lived all my life in Hawaii I've been taught to respect the ocean. Because I love to hike I lead hiking groups in the mountains but also on the rugged coast line where there is jagged lava and the most pristine, crystal clear tidepools. Hikes along the ocean should be conducted with the utmost caution and only when the tide is low and there is no high surf advisory. One day I led a hike where the conditions were not as favorable (FIRST WARNING) though still hikeable but with the need to have a little extra caution. There was a part of the hike where one must climb down a vertical ledge and if you are not fully aware of where your footing should be it can be quite scary for the uninitiated. And if you slip you fall into the raging surf below with no escape except to be slammed upon sharp lava rocks. Having already helped a couple of hikers down there was a wave that splashed water on my backpack and that was the ocean giving me the SECOND WARNING! I did not heed it. I proceeded to help the next hiker down but midway down the ledge while having trouble with his footing I looked behind me and saw a bigger wave coming - it came about knee high and that's when I realized that we were in a dangerous situation. I immediately started to push the hiker back up but he was still having trouble and at the same time I yelled to the other hikers below me to move away from the ocean untl we could get each one back up the ledge. Then I turned and saw a monster wave coming and this one I knew could be the one to wash me into the ocean - I thought in a less than 10 seconds I could be dead! I grabbed on to the slippery rocks and braced myself as best I could. The wave was waist high and believe me that is enough to feel as if the ocean was determined to pull me in - I slipped on the rocks and cut myself. Another hiker slipped and knocked his head against the lava receiving a huge gash which later required stiches. Fortunately that day Mother Nature was not as angry at me for my defiance and left an opening for us to climb back up the ledge and to leave what could have been certain death for another day!

Now what did I learn from that day. I consider myself an expert hiker trained in the ways of the ocean. But being an "expert" there are two ways to interpret a warning (and not even a warning if you make the right decisions in the first place). You can say "I'm an expert and as such the conditions are not right so I will go find something else to do today". Or, you can say "I'm an expert so I should be able to handle a chancey situation - or put another way "I'm an expert so I can press my luck". I decided on that day which definition of expert I wanted to be.
User avatar
By Aeschna
THANK YOU Jim! I'm going to print that one out and read it every day before I set my glider up.
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By Spark
Great post Jim.

<comments withdrawn>
Last edited by Spark on Sun Jan 31, 2010 4:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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By sg
This needs to be added to the WIKI.

I found something that helps me deal with "walking the line".

I put things into statistical perspective, and that really gives me a wake up call when I do that.

When I feel that pressure, that uncertainty, instead of saying to myself, "if youre feeling that way, you shouldnt fly", which isnt enough... I do this:

"Would you take this launch if you had to do it 10,000 times in a row? How about 1000 times? 100 times?"

When I think about it like that... I often think.... 1000 times?!?!? Id SURELY blow it if I had to do it 1000 times in a row. And THAT right there, raises my eyebrows and makes me walk away. 1000 times is my line. Whats yours?

Thinking back to my close calls before I developed this.... I can think of several times I would not have launched if I simply asked myself the question, would you try this exact launch in these exact conditions 1000 times in a row??? If those odds seems bad to you walk away. The # doesnt have to be 1000, thats YOUR personal #.
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By Dennis D

Most excellent post. Kind of chilling too, when you think about it.

Did I feel 100% my first solos? (I'm STILL in my first solos!) Solo 1, oh boy, NOPE! Not 100%, not even close!, 2 and 3, "okay" 4 was better, 5, well, 5 goes along with the "Walking the line" where I went back to decision mode and overrode good sense. *nodding head off*

I agree, this should be added to the wiki, this is good stuff, a very close and intimate evaluation of the pre-take off evaluation and the reinforcement that it is better to take the glider down, pack it up and live to fly another day when that "feeling" just says "No, you shouldn't take off today".
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By Bobfly
Well put, Jim. This is what I call putting wisdom into words. I'll remember this post every time I leave the house to go flying. Your advice (along with all of the other H4's and above) really help to put some perspective into the decision to "go fly". With all of the video's on youtube and elsewhere showing pilots launching in howling winds and horrendous conditions, it's good to hear advanced pilots talk about "stepping back from the line".
User avatar
By samarth2004
SkyPilot wrote:Sage advice Jim!

Shakespeare said it right (and I'm taking some liberty here):

To fly, or not to fly, that is the question.
He said this too..." If flying be the food of love then fly on" ....But at your risk.

May be it's too much of liberty..


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By remmoore
Jim wrote,
"Now it's easy to say "if you're thinking like that, then don't fly". But again, hogwash. This is the demon we wrestle with. Things aren't always black and white and you're kidding yourself if you think they are. I walk the line for a living. It is by far the hardest thing we do. Again, none of us would be flying if we didn't."

I'm already reading in some pilots' responses to Jim's message (paraphasing) "If my gut is telling me not to fly, I don't." Jim's saying above that relying on your gut alone to give you the go/no go is "hogwash".

I've said this before, and am saying it again - you've got to use your rational mind to make flying decisions. If left unchecked, your "gut" will keep you on the ground needlessly, make other poor flying decisions, and possibly cripple your judgement until it drives you from the sport. I've seen it many times.

I had a good buddy who was a classic case. He would stand on launch on a perfect flying day and say," Something doesn't feel right." and not set up. He'd make really crappy flying decisions based on what his "gut" was telling him, and get himself in trouble. Eventually, all the bad advice from his "gut" chased him out of the sport. Sad.

If you let every little bit of fear, every moment of anxiety, every tinge of uncertainty rule your decision making, your "gut" is owning you. You're it's little b*tch, and it's gonna have it's nasty way with you.

Using your rational mind to make flying decisions is the only way to go. Use logic, reason, experience, and facts - and tell that stupid "gut" to stay down there and do what it's supposed to do - process sh*t!

User avatar
By QuienesSuPa
Dude, that should be a magazine article. Moving. It's funny how you can be leaning towards "Bag the day" and a puff comes up the hill so back come the rosy glasses. I don't think I could make a sandwich pre-launch... And I see the super experienced guys doing stuff like that and somehow seemingly impervious to the rosy colored perspective, or the lemming effect. I'm getting closer every year but you putting it all in words helps solidify the reality and it's importance. I appreciate it.

That's scary when I try to answer the number question. My acceptable number is worst when (like yesterday), there's a lone zagi in the air and it just climbed 50ft in a couple circles indicating the rare january thermal. On launch, it even started blowing down right when I saw that further backing up the thermal's power as it sucked hard enough to reverse the wind. Now, I'm no longer looking for the 4-5 wind to get more straight, I'm looking for it to prove it's just not blowing down so I can go get that thermal b4 it's drifted away. I'd say I push it down to 49 out of 50 success.... but I tell myself it's ok because I've never blown a launch....

Heck, I've launched in no-wind before much higher alt. and I've never blown a launch... and tho I know that rationale is dangerous... it creeps back in when I'm wanting the flight so bad... and I see success out front.. So hard. The endless struggle. I know better. Really... but it's soarable. F'ing mind F. Love it. So, I launched and was rewarded for a little bit of complacency... Slippery slope.

User avatar
By johnpeace
I was at launch on Sugar once at Lakeview, OR.

It was getting really strong while I dorked around getting everything ready.

All of a sudden, it was too strong. Guys ahead of me in line were backing off and breaking down. I had to decide whether to walk up to launch or not.

I remembered my wife, at home, before my trip asking me to 'be careful'. I pondered whether launching in STRONG conditions while other more experienced pilots were backing down was 'careful'.

No, I decided...that would actually be 'dangerous'.

So, I put the glider back in the bag and took the van back to the camp.

I lived to fly another day.

Actually, the next day was my best 30mi XC!!! Glad I was there for it.

So from then on, my filter has been, 'would this count as 'being careful'? '

You have made the important point that decision making is the most important thing we do. That's what makes HG so much fun!
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By Spark
<comments withdrawn>
Last edited by Spark on Sun Jan 31, 2010 4:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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By Lobido
Yes, it's hard.
fu001.jpg (74.35 KiB) Viewed 5919 times
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By johnpeace
Yep, most always, unless you're in Hawaii, clouds forming below launch means it's a good day to do something else.
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By SkyPilot
QuienesSuPa wrote:Dude, that should be a magazine article.
:ditto: - Submit it, Jim!
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By bobk
Good article Jim.

Along those lines, I think it's healthy for pilots to ask themselves how many times they've been set up to launch on those "questionable" days and then chosen to fold down. I'm not talking about those clearly "no way should I fly" days. Those are easy. I'm talking about the questionable "maybe I could fly, but maybe I shouldn't" days. Of course our flying rate will be nearly 100% on the "good" days. And of course our folding rate will be nearly 100% on the "scary as heck" days. But what about the in between days? How many times have you folded down on those days? That's the real measure.

Thanks for a good article Jim.
User avatar
Very good points Jim.

I try to do a ROI on every flight I take. Risk reward. If the day is changing and not promising many miles I pack it in. But like renmore(I think) said, If you want to do something great you may have to take some marginal risks.

There are very few XC's I take that at some point I am not in a safe standing regarding available LZ's You couldn't fly XC in New England if you demanded a safe LZ for every mile. That said your mind is always working and you are doing the math using your instruments and have to know when NOT to press on.

Very good post Jim.

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By jimrooney
Dude, that should be a magazine article.
Thanks. I prefer it here though.
I love that here it's not me on a podium. Here it's a catalyst for discussion. Just look at all the good info already. We all go through this and it's a very personal choice. It's good to have a chat about how the process works and see how everyone else deals with it. I'm just happy to start the ball rolling.
Sometimes for me the hardest part is when other pilots are showing that it can be done.
Oh hell yeah... that one can be a real duesy!

User avatar
By SkyPilot
jimrooney wrote:
Sometimes for me the hardest part is when other pilots are showing that it can be done.
Oh hell yeah... that one can be a real duesy!

And I would think that peer pressure would be a major cause for a bad decision - gotta put that on the Pre-Flight Mental Checklist :thumbsup:

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