|37000 Feet||Browse and search NASA's
Aviation Safety Reporting System
|Local Time Of Day||1201 To 1800|
|Locale Reference||atc facility : apn|
|Altitude||agl bound lower : 500|
agl bound upper : 3000
|Controlling Facilities||artcc : zmp|
|Operator||general aviation : personal|
|Make Model Name||Small Aircraft, High Wing, 1 Eng, Fixed Gear|
|Flight Phase||cruise other|
|Function||flight crew : single pilot|
|Qualification||pilot : cfi|
pilot : instrument
pilot : commercial
|Experience||flight time last 90 days : 30|
flight time total : 4000
flight time type : 3600
|Affiliation||government : faa|
|Function||controller : radar|
|Qualification||controller : radar|
|Anomaly||inflight encounter : weather|
inflight encounter : vfr in imc
non adherence : far
other spatial deviation
|Independent Detector||other flight crewa|
|Primary Problem||Flight Crew Human Performance|
|Air Traffic Incident||Pilot Deviation|
I flew VFR to gaylord, mi, in my small aircraft to take part in some activities there. There was WX supposed to be moving in, but nothing was forecast to drop below 3000 ft and 5 mi visibility. Conditions were much better than that when I made my flight, with the only remarkable thing being the extremely strong tailwinds that allowed me to cover the 125 NM in about 55 mins. Visibilities were about 10 mi at the time. 2 hours later it was time to leave, and a call to flight service indicated that the forecast was essentially unchanged but that conditions had dropped somewhat. All the stations around me and along my route except for houghton lake (htl) were reporting 3500 ft and 7-10 mi. Htl was calling it 700 ft and 4 mi. I wanted to return VFR because of the strong headwinds and the fact that the airway I would have to fly would probably put me at 6000 ft right into the teeth of the wind. I decided to head easterly first (in the direction of the old wurtsmith AFB (asp VOR) and then south as that would put me between apn and mbs who were both reporting good VFR (albeit windy and turbulent). Upon departure from gaylord I found the local ceiling between 800-1200 ft and visibilities between 3-4 mi. As I approached hubbard lake (and the that matter, lake huron) ceilings and visibilities started to drop. Turbulence also increased, sometimes reaching severe levels (I have a bruised noggin to prove it). Thinking it was a local condition, I descended to 500 ft AGL and pressed on for a couple of mi. It soon became obvious that things weren't going to get any better, so I decided to make a 180 degree turn and return to better conditions. As I made my turn, visibility went to zero, leaving me the option to dive for the trees or climb for safety. Since I knew that not far behind me were a couple of radio towers that went up to 500 ft AGL, I felt climbing was the only alternative for me. Caught unprepared, it took me a min to get the center frequency off the chart and give them a call. Their radar could not pick me up, but I was able to give them a position that they confirmed by a landline to alpena (apn) approach. By this time I was circling at 3000 ft MSL, in and out of clouds, waiting for a clearance which was quickly issued. Once established on V45 en route saginaw (mbs), I called lansing AFSS and passed them a PIREP on the low conditions. The rest of the flight was relatively smooth and uneventful, although slow with ground speeds ranging between 52- 75 KTS. As forecast, conditions at saginaw were fine. This is a good example of the pilot who failed to use superior judgement, requiring the application of superior skill to avoid becoming a statistic. As a CFI, I stress to my students how bad attitudes can lead to hazardous sits. I am chagrined that I failed to remember that they apply equally to individuals at all experience levels. Fortunately, this event occurred off the airways in a sparsely populated area. The fact that I entered the clouds without a clearance could have been disastrous had it occurred in a heavily-traveled area. I should have had all the information for executing a plan 'B' at my fingertips and not delayed implementing it when things first started going bad. Knowing that WX reporting stations in the area were few and far between, I should not have been lulled into assuming that the reported conditions would necessarily exist along the entire route of flight. I will use the above example to drive home with my students and others the dangers of 'get thereitis' and failure to plan for all eventualities. Perhaps knowing that their old instructor is capable of pulling some dumb stunts will make them stop and think twice before they do something equally stupid.
Original NASA ASRS Text
Title: SMA ENCOUNTERS LOWERING CEILINGS, CLBS THROUGH CLOUDS WHILE WAITING IFR CLRNC.
Narrative: I FLEW VFR TO GAYLORD, MI, IN MY SMA TO TAKE PART IN SOME ACTIVITIES THERE. THERE WAS WX SUPPOSED TO BE MOVING IN, BUT NOTHING WAS FORECAST TO DROP BELOW 3000 FT AND 5 MI VISIBILITY. CONDITIONS WERE MUCH BETTER THAN THAT WHEN I MADE MY FLT, WITH THE ONLY REMARKABLE THING BEING THE EXTREMELY STRONG TAILWINDS THAT ALLOWED ME TO COVER THE 125 NM IN ABOUT 55 MINS. VISIBILITIES WERE ABOUT 10 MI AT THE TIME. 2 HRS LATER IT WAS TIME TO LEAVE, AND A CALL TO FLT SVC INDICATED THAT THE FORECAST WAS ESSENTIALLY UNCHANGED BUT THAT CONDITIONS HAD DROPPED SOMEWHAT. ALL THE STATIONS AROUND ME AND ALONG MY RTE EXCEPT FOR HOUGHTON LAKE (HTL) WERE RPTING 3500 FT AND 7-10 MI. HTL WAS CALLING IT 700 FT AND 4 MI. I WANTED TO RETURN VFR BECAUSE OF THE STRONG HEADWINDS AND THE FACT THAT THE AIRWAY I WOULD HAVE TO FLY WOULD PROBABLY PUT ME AT 6000 FT RIGHT INTO THE TEETH OF THE WIND. I DECIDED TO HEAD EASTERLY FIRST (IN THE DIRECTION OF THE OLD WURTSMITH AFB (ASP VOR) AND THEN S AS THAT WOULD PUT ME BTWN APN AND MBS WHO WERE BOTH RPTING GOOD VFR (ALBEIT WINDY AND TURBULENT). UPON DEP FROM GAYLORD I FOUND THE LCL CEILING BTWN 800-1200 FT AND VISIBILITIES BTWN 3-4 MI. AS I APCHED HUBBARD LAKE (AND THE THAT MATTER, LAKE HURON) CEILINGS AND VISIBILITIES STARTED TO DROP. TURB ALSO INCREASED, SOMETIMES REACHING SEVERE LEVELS (I HAVE A BRUISED NOGGIN TO PROVE IT). THINKING IT WAS A LCL CONDITION, I DSNDED TO 500 FT AGL AND PRESSED ON FOR A COUPLE OF MI. IT SOON BECAME OBVIOUS THAT THINGS WEREN'T GOING TO GET ANY BETTER, SO I DECIDED TO MAKE A 180 DEG TURN AND RETURN TO BETTER CONDITIONS. AS I MADE MY TURN, VISIBILITY WENT TO ZERO, LEAVING ME THE OPTION TO DIVE FOR THE TREES OR CLB FOR SAFETY. SINCE I KNEW THAT NOT FAR BEHIND ME WERE A COUPLE OF RADIO TWRS THAT WENT UP TO 500 FT AGL, I FELT CLBING WAS THE ONLY ALTERNATIVE FOR ME. CAUGHT UNPREPARED, IT TOOK ME A MIN TO GET THE CTR FREQ OFF THE CHART AND GIVE THEM A CALL. THEIR RADAR COULD NOT PICK ME UP, BUT I WAS ABLE TO GIVE THEM A POS THAT THEY CONFIRMED BY A LANDLINE TO ALPENA (APN) APCH. BY THIS TIME I WAS CIRCLING AT 3000 FT MSL, IN AND OUT OF CLOUDS, WAITING FOR A CLRNC WHICH WAS QUICKLY ISSUED. ONCE ESTABLISHED ON V45 ENRTE SAGINAW (MBS), I CALLED LANSING AFSS AND PASSED THEM A PIREP ON THE LOW CONDITIONS. THE REST OF THE FLT WAS RELATIVELY SMOOTH AND UNEVENTFUL, ALTHOUGH SLOW WITH GND SPDS RANGING BTWN 52- 75 KTS. AS FORECAST, CONDITIONS AT SAGINAW WERE FINE. THIS IS A GOOD EXAMPLE OF THE PLT WHO FAILED TO USE SUPERIOR JUDGEMENT, REQUIRING THE APPLICATION OF SUPERIOR SKILL TO AVOID BECOMING A STATISTIC. AS A CFI, I STRESS TO MY STUDENTS HOW BAD ATTITUDES CAN LEAD TO HAZARDOUS SITS. I AM CHAGRINED THAT I FAILED TO REMEMBER THAT THEY APPLY EQUALLY TO INDIVIDUALS AT ALL EXPERIENCE LEVELS. FORTUNATELY, THIS EVENT OCCURRED OFF THE AIRWAYS IN A SPARSELY POPULATED AREA. THE FACT THAT I ENTERED THE CLOUDS WITHOUT A CLRNC COULD HAVE BEEN DISASTROUS HAD IT OCCURRED IN A HEAVILY-TRAVELED AREA. I SHOULD HAVE HAD ALL THE INFO FOR EXECUTING A PLAN 'B' AT MY FINGERTIPS AND NOT DELAYED IMPLEMENTING IT WHEN THINGS FIRST STARTED GOING BAD. KNOWING THAT WX RPTING STATIONS IN THE AREA WERE FEW AND FAR BTWN, I SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN LULLED INTO ASSUMING THAT THE RPTED CONDITIONS WOULD NECESSARILY EXIST ALONG THE ENTIRE RTE OF FLT. I WILL USE THE ABOVE EXAMPLE TO DRIVE HOME WITH MY STUDENTS AND OTHERS THE DANGERS OF 'GET THEREITIS' AND FAILURE TO PLAN FOR ALL EVENTUALITIES. PERHAPS KNOWING THAT THEIR OLD INSTRUCTOR IS CAPABLE OF PULLING SOME DUMB STUNTS WILL MAKE THEM STOP AND THINK TWICE BEFORE THEY DO SOMETHING EQUALLY STUPID.
Data retrieved from NASA's ASRS site as of July 2007 and automatically converted to unabbreviated mixed upper/lowercase text. This report is for informational purposes with no guarantee of accuracy. See NASA's ASRS site for official report.