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Almost witnessed an accident.

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Captain Over

Jan 31, 2002
Another instructor and I were taking advantage of today's low ceilings(300VRB1100) in our area and were shooting some ILS's. As we were taxiing in, we noticed an SP model 172 taxiing out. We parked in front of our hanger and ran in to use the restroom. We came back out, put the plane up, and shut the hanger door. As we were walking back to the office, we saw the 172 take off. Curious to how long it would take for him to disappear, we stopped and watched. About 15 seconds into his flight, he was in the clouds. About 5 seconds after that, he was back out in what I would guess to be a greater than 30 degree bank, and had already turned from an approximate heading of 170 to about 090. I thought I was going to see this guy bite it. He continued on an east heading and we lost sight due to the mist. I guess he was able to maintain some control, because we later saw him taxiing in from the departure end of an 11,500' runway. We were going to call the tower to see what the heck happened, but chickened out. I had to leave to go pick up dinner for the wife, but the other instructor went to the FBO where this guy went. He called me later and gave me the scoop. VFR pilot, got a special VFR in 300' ceilings because he had to be at a birthday party. Tower gave him vectors back to the airport. He didn't see the runway until he was more than half way down it, and by the time he rolled out he was near the end. His very young son was with him in the plane. Very sad.

Now I don't claim to be "Mr. Never Do Something Stupid", but geez.

Just thought I'd share.

For ten bucks I'll break both his legs.

Five bucks for one, see how he likes it. He needs to remember.

As far as I'm concerned, that's child abuse.
SVFR in 300' ceilings...that's gonna work. At least he had the sense to get the vectors. Bet he had to change his pants too......lol
Amen, Amen.......

I mean, how are you going to keep 500 ft. clearance from people and property (assuming a non-congested area) if you are scud running at 300 feet? Any higher is not special VFR, it's IFR.

I just hope he learned a little something from it and can pass it on to some other inexperienced pilot thinking about making the same decision.

I watched a guy take off in a twin cessna one time with the nose baggage door open. 6,000 feet of runway, and this guy was gonna make that plane fly, no matter what. I'm suprised he made it over the hills and onto a downwind. I've also met a guy that did the same thing in a Navajo with different results. Took the left propeller and some vital parts of the engine with it when the door detached. They pulled the guy out of the bottom of a lake some time later. He's still pretty jacked up from that, but he's alive.

The point is, its better to learn from someone else's mistakes than to try and live through it on your own. I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but it still amazes me that some people don't do it.

Take care all.

That's the number one cause for accidents in G.A. You'd think the FAA would do more to correct this problem.

I sometimes look at the accident synopys' in the Flying magazine and I see 3,000 hour pilot that get into these types of situations. You'd think they would have enough experience in the aircraft the handle these types of situations or pick up and instrument rating. Does anyone have any comments on this?
I don't see the FAA as being at fault in this one. How stupid do you have to be to depart an airport VFR into 003OVC? It's a little easier to understand enroute, although still not too bright.

However, I would be curious as to why the tower/approach would even give him the clearance. Looking out the window ought to be enough for them to see that this wouldn't work. Same goes for the pilot!

Basically all that is required for an ATC facility to issue a special VFR is 1 mile of vis and the pilot must request it. 003OVC is not a factor as far as the legalities for issueing the clearance are concerned. Determining if the flight can be flown under the provisions of SVFR is up to the pilot.

There are a few other requirements, in a nonradar enviroment there must not be any IFR traffic in the Class E serface area. If there is more than one aircraft requesting a SVFR clearance during the same time period, they can be allowed to operate in the surface area at the same time, as long as all involved aircraft agree to maintain visual seperation.

I'm not sure about how the regulations pretain to operations in a radar enviroment. Maybe Avbug can fill us in.
However, I would be curious as to why the tower/approach would even give him the clearance. Looking out the window ought to be enough for them to see that this wouldn't work.

I disagree with you on that point. Air traffic controllers are there to separate airplanes, not to give their oppinion of one's apparent lack of common sense. ATC has no way of knowing what aeronautical experience a pilot has, i.e. instrument rated with plenty of IFR/IMC experience vs. a VFR pilot who doesn't know what the inside of a cloud looks like. All a controller can do is provide ATC service based on the info they have, and it's not their job to decide if someone is making a bad weather decision.
Even FSS people aren't allowed to do that, only to recommend a go/no-go.

Actually, if the visiblity was good underneath and the ceiling somewhere in the middle of the 300V1100 range, it might not have been a bad idea to get the special to get out. Then again, this assumes that whoever is behind the controls has enough skill to handle the situation, and enough brains to realize if they are in over their head. Obviously the pilot involved was in wayover his head, but I can't fault the controller for that.


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