|37000 Feet||Browse and search NASA's
Aviation Safety Reporting System
|Local Time Of Day||1201 To 1800|
|Locale Reference||atc facility : zzz.artcc|
|Altitude||msl single value : 14000|
|Controlling Facilities||artcc : zzz.artcc|
|Operator||general aviation : personal|
|Make Model Name||PA-28 Cherokee/Archer II/Dakota/Pillan/Warrior|
|Operating Under FAR Part||Part 91|
|Flight Phase||cruise : level|
|Function||flight crew : single pilot|
|Qualification||pilot : private|
|Experience||flight time last 90 days : 10|
flight time total : 135
flight time type : 48
|Anomaly||inflight encounter : weather|
non adherence : far
non adherence : published procedure
|Independent Detector||other flight crewa|
|Resolutory Action||flight crew : exited adverse environment|
flight crew : took precautionary avoidance action
|Problem Areas||Flight Crew Human Performance|
I received standard WX briefings via duats for my route at approximately XA00 and again at XD00. I did not save a copy of the briefing; by my interpretation was that it was to be a cavu day along my entire route with those conditions forecast to continue until at least XK00. My actual departure time was as planned at approximately XF00; ete approximately 1 hour 45 mins. I called approach and obtained VFR flight following; my planned altitude was 8500 ft MSL. Prior to departure; I observed some clouds over the mountains to the northeast; but I assumed they were scattered clouds and I would be able to fly over or under them. I did not check the WX again before departing. Approaching the mountains in the vicinity of ZZZ at 8500 ft MSL; I observed what appeared to be poor visibility under the clouds and decided to attempt to climb above them. I had never attempted to fly above the clouds before except during an instrument training flight with my instructor (I am working on my instrument rating but have only accumulated approximately 5 hours of instruction). I informed ATC I was climbing to 10500 ft MSL. When I reached that altitude; I was above the clouds and based on my earlier incorrect assumptions I thought after I cleared a 'line' of clouds I would be able to descend. However; it became apparent that the overcast was somewhat widespread; the tops continued to rise and I soon found myself climbing to 12500 ft MSL and diverting northeast of my planned direct route as the tops appeared to be lower in that direction. I was wary of climbing higher; given the oxygen requirements; which I was aware of -- aside from the regulatory aspect I was concerned about possible effects of hypoxia as I had never flown above 10000 ft MSL previously. However; the cloud tops continued to rise and I continued to climb to 14000 ft MSL. I knew I could not legally climb above this altitude since I did not have oxygen on board; and I was approaching the service ceiling of my aircraft in any case and thus quickly running out of options to avoid the clouds. During this entire time; I contemplated turning around but I continued to assume better conditions were close ahead; and was also concerned that conditions behind me may have worsened. Finally I made a smart decision; to confess my dilemma to ATC; who suggested calling flight watch. I did contact flight watch who were very helpful; suggesting conditions should be better ahead; to the north; or failing that; at or to the west of my destination. Shortly thereafter; I saw a large break in the cloud layer and descended rapidly though it to 6500 MSL. The remainder of the flight was completed uneventfully. I do believe I complied with VFR cloud clearance requirements at all times; although 1000 ft above is difficult to judge; as is 1 mile laterally (as I was descending through the hole above 10000 MSL). I am not sure of the exact duration of time I was above 12500 MSL but I may have exceeded the 30 minute requirement of 91.211. In retrospect; staying below the clouds would have been a much better option. I allowed incorrect assumptions about the extent of the overcast layer to influence my judgement; and failed to consider turning back when it was still my best option. On the positive side; I did eventually admit my mistake and obtain the assistance I needed; and flight watch and ATC were both helpful in resolving the situation without incident.
Original NASA ASRS Text
Title: A VFR PA 28 PILOT CLBED TO 14000 FT ATTEMPTING TO AVOID UNFORECAST CLOUDS ON HIS ROUTE OF FLT.
Narrative: I RECEIVED STANDARD WX BRIEFINGS VIA DUATS FOR MY RTE AT APPROX XA00 AND AGAIN AT XD00. I DID NOT SAVE A COPY OF THE BRIEFING; BY MY INTERP WAS THAT IT WAS TO BE A CAVU DAY ALONG MY ENTIRE RTE WITH THOSE CONDITIONS FORECAST TO CONTINUE UNTIL AT LEAST XK00. MY ACTUAL DEP TIME WAS AS PLANNED AT APPROX XF00; ETE APPROX 1 HR 45 MINS. I CALLED APCH AND OBTAINED VFR FLT FOLLOWING; MY PLANNED ALT WAS 8500 FT MSL. PRIOR TO DEP; I OBSERVED SOME CLOUDS OVER THE MOUNTAINS TO THE NE; BUT I ASSUMED THEY WERE SCATTERED CLOUDS AND I WOULD BE ABLE TO FLY OVER OR UNDER THEM. I DID NOT CHK THE WX AGAIN BEFORE DEPARTING. APCHING THE MOUNTAINS IN THE VICINITY OF ZZZ AT 8500 FT MSL; I OBSERVED WHAT APPEARED TO BE POOR VISIBILITY UNDER THE CLOUDS AND DECIDED TO ATTEMPT TO CLB ABOVE THEM. I HAD NEVER ATTEMPTED TO FLY ABOVE THE CLOUDS BEFORE EXCEPT DURING AN INST TRAINING FLT WITH MY INSTRUCTOR (I AM WORKING ON MY INST RATING BUT HAVE ONLY ACCUMULATED APPROX 5 HRS OF INSTRUCTION). I INFORMED ATC I WAS CLBING TO 10500 FT MSL. WHEN I REACHED THAT ALT; I WAS ABOVE THE CLOUDS AND BASED ON MY EARLIER INCORRECT ASSUMPTIONS I THOUGHT AFTER I CLRED A 'LINE' OF CLOUDS I WOULD BE ABLE TO DSND. HOWEVER; IT BECAME APPARENT THAT THE OVCST WAS SOMEWHAT WIDESPREAD; THE TOPS CONTINUED TO RISE AND I SOON FOUND MYSELF CLBING TO 12500 FT MSL AND DIVERTING NE OF MY PLANNED DIRECT RTE AS THE TOPS APPEARED TO BE LOWER IN THAT DIRECTION. I WAS WARY OF CLBING HIGHER; GIVEN THE OXYGEN REQUIREMENTS; WHICH I WAS AWARE OF -- ASIDE FROM THE REGULATORY ASPECT I WAS CONCERNED ABOUT POSSIBLE EFFECTS OF HYPOXIA AS I HAD NEVER FLOWN ABOVE 10000 FT MSL PREVIOUSLY. HOWEVER; THE CLOUD TOPS CONTINUED TO RISE AND I CONTINUED TO CLB TO 14000 FT MSL. I KNEW I COULD NOT LEGALLY CLB ABOVE THIS ALT SINCE I DID NOT HAVE OXYGEN ON BOARD; AND I WAS APCHING THE SVC CEILING OF MY ACFT IN ANY CASE AND THUS QUICKLY RUNNING OUT OF OPTIONS TO AVOID THE CLOUDS. DURING THIS ENTIRE TIME; I CONTEMPLATED TURNING AROUND BUT I CONTINUED TO ASSUME BETTER CONDITIONS WERE CLOSE AHEAD; AND WAS ALSO CONCERNED THAT CONDITIONS BEHIND ME MAY HAVE WORSENED. FINALLY I MADE A SMART DECISION; TO CONFESS MY DILEMMA TO ATC; WHO SUGGESTED CALLING FLIGHT WATCH. I DID CONTACT FLIGHT WATCH WHO WERE VERY HELPFUL; SUGGESTING CONDITIONS SHOULD BE BETTER AHEAD; TO THE NORTH; OR FAILING THAT; AT OR TO THE WEST OF MY DESTINATION. SHORTLY THEREAFTER; I SAW A LARGE BREAK IN THE CLOUD LAYER AND DESCENDED RAPIDLY THOUGH IT TO 6500 MSL. THE REMAINDER OF THE FLIGHT WAS COMPLETED UNEVENTFULLY. I DO BELIEVE I COMPLIED WITH VFR CLOUD CLEARANCE REQUIREMENTS AT ALL TIMES; ALTHOUGH 1000 FT ABOVE IS DIFFICULT TO JUDGE; AS IS 1 MILE LATERALLY (AS I WAS DESCENDING THROUGH THE HOLE ABOVE 10000 MSL). I AM NOT SURE OF THE EXACT DURATION OF TIME I WAS ABOVE 12500 MSL BUT I MAY HAVE EXCEEDED THE 30 MINUTE REQUIREMENT OF 91.211. IN RETROSPECT; STAYING BELOW THE CLOUDS WOULD HAVE BEEN A MUCH BETTER OPTION. I ALLOWED INCORRECT ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT THE EXTENT OF THE OVERCAST LAYER TO INFLUENCE MY JUDGEMENT; AND FAILED TO CONSIDER TURNING BACK WHEN IT WAS STILL MY BEST OPTION. ON THE POSITIVE SIDE; I DID EVENTUALLY ADMIT MY MISTAKE AND OBTAIN THE ASSISTANCE I NEEDED; AND FLIGHT WATCH AND ATC WERE BOTH HELPFUL IN RESOLVING THE SITUATION WITHOUT INCIDENT.
Data retrieved from NASA's ASRS site as of May 2009 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.