The winter holidays, which begin in late November and end at the new year, are known as one of the busiest travel times of the year. This is the time of year where people go on vacation or leave town to visit family or friends, so the airports, roads, and skies are typically a bit more crowded than usual. Pilots, if you are planning on traveling this holiday season, keep these tips in mind:
Don’t give into pressure
Many people are under a lot of pressure to make it to their final destination in time to celebrate the holidays with other people. This means that people tend to rush and make poor travel decisions just so they don’t disappoint their loved ones that are waiting. But, no pilot should ever make this mistake. For example, don’t skip a few items on your pre-flight inspection checklist or take off when bad weather is coming in just so you can get to your loved ones on time. Your safety should always be your first priority, so don’t be afraid to tell your loved ones that you are running behind because of something that is beyond your control. It can be disappointing to miss out on celebrations because of an unexpected delay, but don’t let this feeling of disappointment cloud your judgment.
While mapping out your trip, research different airports that are near your final destination. Sometimes, the airport that is closest to where you are headed is not necessarily the best choice for your trip. If this airport is incredibly busy during the holiday season, consider landing at another airport that is a little further away to avoid the rush.
Don’t just research the airport—look into the area surrounding the airport as well. Find out how easy it is for you to get to your final destination from these other airports. Is there a major highway near by? Or will landing at this airport cost you hours of navigating through back roads? Is there public transportation? Make sure that there is also at least one hotel near the airport—with vacancy—in case you realize that you are too tired to drive once you get there. By researching this information prior to your trip, you can avoid a lot of the hustle and bustle associated with the holiday season.
Perform a risk assessment
The Federal Aviation Administration recommends that pilots perform a risk assessment of their flight prior to take off. The FAA’s risk assessment asks pilots to consider the weather, their health, the time of the day, and how prepared they are before deciding if the flight is low or high risk. Using the risk assessment worksheet allows pilots to put all of their information on paper so they can clearly see what risk is involved with the flight. Then, pilots can make an informed decision on whether they should move forward with the flight or wait until the risk has been reduced in some way.
Avoid popular travel days
People travel throughout the holiday season, but there are some days that are busier than others. For example, people that are leaving town for Christmas typically leave on December 23rd so they can arrive at their final destination in time to celebrate both Christmas Eve and Christmas. The busiest days around Thanksgiving are always the day before and the Sunday following the holiday when people return home. Aircraft owners have the benefit of being able to choose when they want to take off instead of having to plan their travel around a commercial airliner’s flight schedule. Take advantage of this and plan your trip around these busy days so the airports and skies are not as crowded.
Pack extra clothes
You never know when an unexpected storm will come through and leave you stranded away from home. Be prepared for this situation by packing extra clothes for your trip. This will make a last minute change of plans more bearable and allow you to stay comfortable while you wait for the skies to clear so you can take off.
Get extra instruction
If you haven’t flown as much as you’d like recently, it may be a good idea to invest in additional flight training prior to the holidays. Find an instructor that will help you brush up on basic skills that you should know before flying in the winter. Make sure that the instructor knows when you will be taking your trip so it is clear how much time you have to learn. You should also tell him where you will be going so he has a better idea of what weather conditions you could be facing while on the trip.
Get plenty of sleep
There’s a lot going on around the holidays, which means you may be rushing to get things done before your trip. But, it’s not smart to fly a plane if you haven’t been getting enough sleep. If you plan on flying during the holidays, make sure you take care of yourself in the days leading up to the flight so you are alert while in the cockpit. There’s no replacement for sleep, so don’t rely on a cup of coffee or a hot shower to wake you up.
There’s one other thing that you will need to make it through the holiday season besides the tips mentioned above—Bright Works Polishes. The red, white, and blue Bright Works Polishes are aviation approved and can be used to remove oxidation, water spots, and cloudiness from the surface of your aircraft. Polishing plays an important role in aircraft maintenance, so this is a tip that you should follow year-round, not just during the holidays!