Friday, January 1, 2010

You can't land when even the birds are grounded

It is awful to read about skilled pilots trying to land in the fog, way below minimums. Even trying unsuccessfully to land in heavy IFR conditions at an airport with only an Rnav approach. You don't believe me? Go to the December 09 NTSB reports. One pilot on a short business flight in Texas in a Bonanza tried to land in 1/4 mile visibility with an indefinite ceiling flying a presumed RNAV approach with 1300 ft minimums. This guy had all the ratings including ATP, Instr. instructor etc. He augured in 750 ft off the runway. What was he thinking?

The next one was also in Texas in a Pa-34. Another qualified pilot (on paper): Commercial-Instr.-Instructor. There was no published instrument approach at this airport and the nearest reported weather reports were about 20 miles away. Although they had almost VFR weather there, it was unknown at the desired destination. Anyway it did not deter this maniac from trying to make up his own approach and land in uncertain conditions. He was observed by approach control to desend to 700 ft and then disappear from radar. He crashed in a body of water killing the occupants. That was irresponsible.

The moral of the story is not to second guess the weather and fly only published approaches observing all the Notams and not busting minimums. This latter thing, busting minimums is a classic killer and part of the "get home itus" syndrome. I remember a case of that I had several years ago when trying to return to Kenansville,NC from Raleigh in my C-340. I got so close but at minimums couldn't see a thing. Fog! Rather than try again, sometimes that works, but it was dark out and unlikely to improve so I returned to Raleigh and rented a car to get home. Frustrating yes, but I lived to write about it.

So if you want to avoid the above fates, don't try to beat the system. Rather, follow the rules, use good sound judgement and live to fly another day.

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