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Aviation Learning Center Document Personal Minimums Development Guide
Author: Susan Parson Date: June 2006
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Let's start with the basics. What exactly do we mean when we talk about "personal minimums?" In formal terms, personal minimums refers to an individual pilot's set of procedures, rules, criteria, and guidelines for deciding whether, and under what conditions, to operate (or continue operating) in the National Airspace System.

While this definition is accurate,there are several reasons why you may not find it particularly helpful as a starting point. First, it tends to describe the product rather than explain the process, which is where many pilots have trouble. Second, and more importantly, the formal definition of the end product -- your personal set of procedures, rules, criteria, and guidelines -- does not really convey one of the core concepts: personal minimums as a "safety buffer" between the demands of the situation and the extent of your skills.

Think of personal minimums as the human factors equivalent of reserve fuel. When you plan a flight, the regulations require you to calculate fuel use in a way that leaves a certain minimum amount of fuel in the tanks when you land at your destination or your alternative. The reserve fuel is intended to provide a safety buffer between fuel required for normal flight and fuel available to avoid total quiet in your engine compartment. In the same way, personal minimums should be set so as to provide a solid safety buffer between the skills required for the specific flight you want to make, and the skills available to you through training, experience, currency, and proficiency. In fuel calculations, you wouldn't dream of planning a flight that would force you to use your reserve fuel, or (worse) take you to the "unusable fuel" level in the tanks. In skill calculations, you shouldn't consider making a flight that requires use of skills at the "reserve" or (worse) "unusable fuel" level of your piloting ability. So where do you start in developing personal minimums? There is no single "right" way to proceed, but if you're unsure of how to proceed in establishing your own personal minimums, this method offers a reasonable place to start.

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