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Creating Personal Minimums

Posted by on January 14, 2009 2 Comments Category : Flight Instructor Blog Tags :

Josh wrote us recently asking:

Personal Minimums.. Every pilot should have them, right? I am working on creating a personal minimums checklist for myself, but the thing that really worries me is the wind. I feel OK with crosswinds, but what advice would you give on the wind portion of personal minimums. I fly a Cessna 172. I guess what I am asking is what the “average” max. wind speed is for new private pilots.

Hi Josh.  You have asked a great question and I’m just going to be completely honest with you,  without having flown with you, your question is very difficult to answer.   The only question that could be harder to answer is if you had asked if you should date a brunette or blond? It all depends on very personal factors and past experience.

My experience as an instructor tells me that…..wait, even that is tainted.  I am a flight instructor in the Midwest where winds can commonly blow to 25 or 30 knots.  So newly minted pilots who studied with me might feel more comfortable in winds that blow 10-15 knots, even in a direct crosswind.  If I were a flight instructor in the South or in Tropics where winds barely (except for a hurricane) get above 15 knots, then my student’s minimums may be lowered to 10 knots and 5 knots in a crosswind.  There are just so many factors Josh that influence the development of your personal minimums, it is impossible to give you even rough guidelines without having flown with you.  I know it might seem like the ultimate cop-out, but I say this with a reason…

The best person to judge your personal minimums is….yourself (you saw that coming).  Following at a close second, is your current or last flight instructor.  I would encourage you to sit down with your instructor and ask some honest questions, “How good are my crosswind landings?”, “At what times do I struggle with my landings? and why?”  Your instructor (or favorite safety pilot) if truly honest with you, would be the best source in helping you develop your personal minimums checklist.

Let me finish by saying, I think it is great that you are taking the time to do this important activity.  Many pilots, to their great discredit, do not complete this important task.  You are already putting an impressive accident prevention barrier into place, that as long as its followed (which is the key) will greatly aid in your becoming an OLD pilot (which should be very pilot’s goal).

Keep up the good work (and good questions) Josh and be sure to ALWAYS,

Fly Safe!

UPDATE:  Susan Parson and The FAASTeam have created a guide entitled “Developing Personal Minimums”  You can download it here: developing personal minimums


  1. paul on Jan 14, 2009

    My crosswind minimums change all the time depending on personal currency. Right now, they are real low as I feel rusty but in a couple of months they will go back up. So I agree that only the pilot can really know what his or her mins should be.

    Visibility minimums on the other hand are an absolute 5 miles and never less if I am landing VFR. I once flew up the LA basin in 4 miles and was scared the entire time by how little I could see. Had to be almost on top of Riverside Muni before I could see it, not good.

  2. PlasticPilot on Jan 14, 2009

    Here’s one I developed the day of my initial IFR checkride. The weather was fine so the briefing was short, but the examiner wrote a pseudo-metar for me to analyze. It included bad visibility and RVR, but was legal. I answered that it was legal to shoot the approach, but that with my experience I would not even try it.

    Even today I would probably not do it. Down to 200 feet within 550 meters visibility ? To relativise, this is slightly more than half the length of the lightning ramp…

    My two cents.

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