Great learning Experience - Leg 2 BFL - CMA

36 leg Achievement

Great learning Experience - Leg 2 BFL - CMA

Postby qickrush » Sat Sep 03, 2016 2:37 am

Just wanted to share a great learning experience on my 2nd flight on the Challenge.
I filed VFR, Real World weather, and had picked up that towards KCMA cloud base was Scattered going OVC at around 9,000. But I figured I would be well below and in descent by this point.
I'm a RW student pilot (VFR) and wanted to simulate as much of planning and flying a cross country experience as possible; My 172 was GPS capable but didn't want to use it.

1st part of the flight was straight forward (I chose to depart BFL via MARIC4 for the fun of it), at 9500 until the descent. As I approached GMN I hit some minor cloud and simply started to steer around it, but past GMN the weather deteriorated sharply, and so fast.
I could have gone IFR, but wanted to replicate the RW, so chose not to, and instead to 'fly my way out' of the problem.
Within some 2 minutes I was completely socked in, both around me, above and below. Conscious of the surrounding terrain I continued level hoping (!) for a break, but quickly became lost as my concentration was on flying the plane first. I saw some gaps in the layers below me, and started heading for them,
keeping a sharp eye out for the glimpses of terrain I could - sometimes - see. I was slowly being forced lower and lower into terrain, and was very lucky to break out at around 2500 in a valley.

I informed my situation to ATC who were v. helpful (QUESTION: they had better weather than I was experiencing - Why would that be?).
They offered a couple of diverts which I picked up on, then they helped me get back onto track to CMA as the terrain SW was lowering and had better forward visibility.
The controllers calmness also helped me considerably, thank you!
See my route: meandering around the valley, wandering 73 miles in 1.3 hours!
I was also getting fuel low....was icing up with the plane getting difficult to fly..... and any clear thinking on my part was declining faster than the weather.
I made it in (just) to CMA, like a homing pigeon - diving to the field, for a terrible landing, just to get the thing done.

1st, the BIG one, I think: When flying VFR into IFR without IFR capability (instruments or training) do what I know I should have done immediately - a standard rate 180 turn to get the hell out of there.
2nd, practice those standard rate 180's, so you can (almost literally) do them with your eyes shut - you never know when they'll be needed, and the practice may save your life.
3rd: If you're in trouble, inform ATC. (That's the one thing I did right!)
4th: Triple check the weather. I don't remember the reports in detail now, but I was probably flying on the edge of my capability, and should have planned alternates and diversions thoroughly.
Any other advice out there?

I was very lucky to get out of it OK.
But, it was a GREAT learning experience, and has certainly made me a more cautious, aware, and detailed pilot for my RW training.
Thank you PE!

Michael Cooper
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Re: Great learning Experience - Leg 2 BFL - CMA

Postby Kyle.Sanders » Sat Sep 03, 2016 6:19 am

Wow! Great learning experience indeed!

It sounds to me like this is an ideal training scenario straight out of a book. You:

1. focus on flying the plane when all was going to hell.
2. You told ATC (many forget that ATC is a service dedicated to your safety and not the "police of the sky")

I am not sure about your question half way through concerning ATC having better weather. Would you mind clarifying?
Best Regards,
Kyle Sanders

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Re: Great learning Experience - Leg 2 BFL - CMA

Postby BFG » Sat Sep 03, 2016 8:27 am

Great story. On my leg of the challenge into Kanab I ran into a line of popup desert convection just north of the Grand Canyon. The ceiling kept dropping and I had to bust the Grand Canyon flight rules ceiling just to stay VFR, and after that it was hide-and-go-seek. Very good at getting the heart rate up, even as a simulation. And I'm with you- the right thing would have been to divert to GC West while I could and wait it out. The other lesson was to keep checking the radar on ForeFlight, as it had the cells as they were developing.
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Re: Great learning Experience - Leg 2 BFL - CMA

Postby rtataryn » Sat Sep 03, 2016 8:50 am

Michael, I was following your flight on the PE Receiver and was listening with anticipation for every call. Scary stuff for sure and what a good experience to have in the sim as a student pilot. VFR into IMC is deadly stuff in the RW and in most cases ends up fatal. ... 8rtqzu-I7Q I'm glad you didn't disconnect or change your weather settings to VMC, and played out the scenario to the end. Thorough weather briefings and added caution in mountainous and coastal areas for temp/dewpoint spreads are critical. Better yet, move onto the IFR rating as soon as you can. Awesome sim lesson right there!
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Re: Great learning Experience - Leg 2 BFL - CMA

Postby HRutila » Sat Sep 03, 2016 10:41 am

The controllers may have only been looking at METARs. En-route weather can be completely different, as METARs only reflect surface observations. En-route weather can be better assessed through hazardous weather products (AIRMET, SIGMET, etc.), sattelite radar imagery, and PIREPs.

Your situation is one reason why ATC is required to solicit PIREPs whenever the ceiling is 5,000 feet or lower. The cloud bases/tops information can assist a VFR pilot out of IMC conditions.
Harold Rutila
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