When preparing for a flight, it is not unusual for me as pilot to spend more time planning the trip than actually flying it. A prime concern is always the weather. I review numerous meteorological sites, looking at winds, moisture, storm fronts, and so much more. The amount of information grows geometrically every year, with pilots having access to everything a meteorologist has, right on his IPad. Be assured both pilots on any commercial flight are tracking the weather in real time with their Ipads, which FYI, are not on airplane mode.
Once inflight, my XM weather screen shows a satellite view of clouds and moisture. I also have forward looking radar which paints a picture of moisture levels in the clouds directly in front of me. Technology has turned the modern cockpit into a real time, highly accurate weather station. All of this creates what pilots call “situational awareness,” which means knowing where you are and what is going on around you at all times. Situational awareness has contributed greatly to lower accident rates.
Despite all the fancy technology in todays “glass panel” cockpits, what might amaze the non-pilot is the most important safety feature of all, as it relates to weather related information. It is what we call “Pireps,” short for pilot reports. This report comes from another pilot, flying slightly ahead of you, reporting back the weather he is currently experiencing. For example, expensive computer technology is nothing compared to having a 737 pilot 100 miles ahead of you reporting “moderate turbulence at flight level 270.”
Computers can predict ice accumulation in a certain cloud layer, but a fellow pilot looking out her cockpit window at 25,000 feet can give you information about that ice that is infinitely more useful. Computers improve situational awareness, and reduce human error, but in an ironic twist, it is actually the human element that adds a level of safety computers cannot replicate. A computer shows you weather, but a human tells you what it feels like to be flying in it.
As investing tools become more and more computerized, with some brokerage services actually turning the whole process over to computers, I find myself thinking more about the value of human pireps. There are some things computers simply cannot tell you.
Some fellow advisors ask why, with so much digital information available, I continue to travel so much, visiting companies onsite and speaking directly with CEO’s about their business plan as I evaluate their companies for inclusion in my client accounts. I guess it is just the pilot in me who uses and understands the value of technology, but realizes there is no replacement for face to face, human interaction and research.
As we move further into an investing realm where computers trade against each other while the humans just sit back and watch, I believe great advantage will go to those who remember that in a world driven by emotions, machines in many ways are at a disadvantage. Sometimes nothing beats a good old-fashioned financial pirep.
Hi, I'm Dan. I'm a CFP® Professional.
Securities and advisory services offered through Commonwealth Financial Network®.
Member www.finra.org / www.sipc.org , a Registered Investment Advisor. Wyson Financial, 1173 S. 250 W. Suite 505, St. George, UT 84770.
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