How Safety relates to Experience

Experience gives you the potential for greater safety.

You can either spend that margin on flying more often, or in a wider variety of conditions, or spend it on safety—flying in the same conditions but with wider margins.

It’s the margins that matter. Launching/landing a 12 mph wind for many pilots is easy but some will struggle. Launching/landing in a 15 mph wind for many is dangerous but for a few it’s manageable. You must be careful about how you get the skill, though, lest the learning be risky. That’s where good instruction comes in and even then expanding the envelope is risky on its own.

The increased skill won’t make you safer if its squandered by accepting rowdier conditions. Handling broader conditions may be your goal but don’t be fooled into thinking you’re safer. An an experienced pilot flying in worse conditions is no safer (and may be at more risk) than a less experienced pilot in mellower conditions.

An experienced pilot who accepts higher risks is no safer than the neophyte who climbs up to 200+ feet from a wide open field and only flies in benign weather. Yes, the newbie can get surprised by weather but that’s extremely rare for someone who pays minimal attention to forecasts.

I know of only two PPG fatalities related to weather. One was a new and barely trained pilot who took on late morning’s tumult. Only one non-flyer saw it and she reported that the pilot was “fighting it.” Sounds like excessive hand movements—in all likelihood, he was over controlling. The other fatality launched in conditions that were already bad—far more experienced pilots didn’t want to fly.