For the student pilot, the first solo flight represents a moment of truth. There’s no more time for books. There’s no one in the next seat ready to help you recover from a bad choice. Everything hinges on this one performance. Get it right and you advance to become a fully licensed pilot. Get it wrong and. . . well, let’s just say, you’d better get it right.
Recent Reader Feedback has raised some concerns about solo field work. With limited resources, going out into the field alone to perform surveys and other field work may be more common. Handling that work with a crew — or at least a pair of professionals — may be a luxury at times. What are the implications and consequences if this practice becomes more widespread? We invite readers to weigh in.
In the meantime, here are some quick thoughts.
Despite the high-quality, high-tech tools available today, accuracy may be one of the victims of solo field work. This may not be a direct reflection on the individual, just a fact of trying to do with two hands what is better done with four.
Safety is another major concern. Trying to stretch the limits of what one person can do, it is all too easy for a single worker to push physical limits, resulting in an injury. Add the many hazards of being in the field in the first place, and having no back-up can be uncomfortable at best and downright dangerous at worst.
Probably not on most lists of hazards is frustration. Working alone and struggling to produce optimum results in less-than-optimal conditions can take its toll. Repeating tasks to check or correct accuracy, constantly loading and unloading equipment alone, enduring harsh or hazardous conditions with a heightened sense of risk can add to frustration and fatigue. This can take us back to the beginning of the discussion as a less attentive solo worker starts making mistakes. And, if those mistakes continue to mount up, we are into our second issue – safety.
There are times when solo efforts are needed, but it may still be best practice to send a team into the field, even if that team consists of just a pilot and co-pilot.