Risk-Benefit Analysis for Seaplane Pilots

Type those words into your favorite search engine. Over sixty million results will appear. This says that “risk-benefit analysis” is a common and well known term in our language and culture. We all know what it means: weighing the risk against the benefit derived from the act of taking the risk. Of course, this means if there is no possibility for benefit, there is no reason to take the risk. We all understand this and use the principle in our daily lives.

Why is it, then, that very few of us express the language or even the philosophy of risk-benefit analysis while we are flying our seaplanes? It’s there implicitly but we seldom talk about it. We have many more opportunities to use risk analysis in seaplanes than our landplane counterparts because we have the freedom of making more choices for our take-offs and landings. For example: “I want to land somewhat close to the dock so I don’t have a long taxi.” The area around the dock is loaded with boats and jet skis coming and going. The risk: possible collision with a watercraft. The benefit: save six minutes. If we begin by expressing our risk benefit analysis to ourselves, often we find the benefit is very small for some rather large risks that we are willing to take. As I read accident reports and convert pilot error accidents to risk-benefit analysis language, I can’t help but wonder if the pilot would have made a different choice if he or she would have taken a few seconds to think about possible outcomes using risk-benefit analysis.

Happy—and safe—flying!