Sunday, June 16, 2013

Deciding NOT To Fly

It's better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air, than vice versa.

That's what I've always heard, and it seems like obvious wisdom.  I promised to myself a long time ago that as a private pilot with lots on my mind other than aviation, I would always make the conservative decision as to whether to go flying on a particular day, and to always be able to do an honest assessment of my comfort level with various situations, and make the safe choice.

My plan this weekend was to fly to San Luis Obispo for a friend's graduation, stay over, then fly this morning to Oakland for the A's game, and back home afterwards.  This was one of those classic "why would I do this in a car when I can do it in an airplane?" moments!

As I watched, nay, obsessed over, the weather at SBP through Friday, I saw what I didn't want to see: OVC008 (overcast, with the clouds starting at 800' above the ground, for you non-pilots) until 10am.  It changed a few times over the course of the day, and by Saturday morning, the actual weather was OVC007, set to change to SCT010 (scattered clouds at 1000') at 10am.  We had to get there pretty much AT 10am, and it's not like cloud cover changes instantly, so I'd pretty much have to shoot an approach.

San Luis has an ILS. The IFR routing would be dirt-simple: SNS to PRB and into the ILS approach structure.  This might be the easiest ILS with actual that I would ever fly.  I honestly thought I could have flown it without a problem.

BUT.  My last approaches were just under six months ago, on a simulator. My last approaches in actual IMC (clouds, in an airplane) were in February, 2012!  Sure, I did an IFR flight in February of this year, but it was in clear conditions, I did a poor job staying on airways using only VOR guidance (N6824R has an enroute-certified GPS, but its database is not current), and I got disoriented on the approach because I'd twisted my NAV incorrectly.  Glad it was clear, but it was still scary, and I was by myself!  (it was also LA area, which was stressful)  Also, everything happens faster in a faster airplane - my only IMC experience is in a 172.

So we drove to SBP and back, and we'll be driving to Oakland this morning for the game (there's apparently a marine layer over Oakland today).  And, by the way, the weather in SBP was OVC012 even at noon! But, while I was driving, I took a peek up at the partly-cloudy weather, and remembered how much I love instrument flight.  I'm going to get back into it, the right way, with regular training, in this airplane, and once I'm ready, heading into IMC with an instructor a few times to gain some familiarity and confidence.

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