The issue with pilots of different experience can have an exagerated effect when the weather is crappy.
When you really want to get somewhere and weather looks ok for the first part and no so good for the second half, there is a real temptation for a VFR pilot to ‘go have a look’. What happens then is you encounter the first bit of bad weather but it’s still ok. Things start to get a bit worse. You’re about to turn around and then you see a clear patch further on, so you persevere. Then it gets worse again. This repeats as everyone is looking for the next clear patch, assuming the more experienced pilots (instructor) will say “stop” if they aren’t ok.
This can go on until things have gone too far and there is no easy way out.
Of course sometimes this ‘just to the next clear patch’ actually works leaving the pilot more confident about doing it the next time.
I think, if you’re ‘going to have a look’ you should set hard limits before take off. If cloud base / viz drops below x, then I’m turning around. If there is more than 1 pilot onboard, it’s good to have discussed this in advance too.But the comander must always remain the comander and not assume someone else will manage their flight for them. It can be hard to do though.
If there is one point that comes to mind, as much as this is looking less likely to be weather related, it is that with the forecast in mind, it seems surprising to arrange the flight VFR as there must have been a reasonable possibility that it would become IMC, and therefore IFR. Whether or not the instructor was instrument qualified we shall have to wait and see, and of course it he was not this would explain the decision. On the other hand I am not so certain frontal weather in that area at that time of year would have necessarily produced very low bases and perhaps the thought of arranging the flight up the coast with some alternates also along the coast to the south provided some comfort if the weather proved too much.
DP has wise words, I think that if there is any doubt about being able to continue visually then you should divert / turn back, if you are instrument trained and can transition to instruments it is another matter. Personally I dont have concerns about a transition, although I know some do.
Scud running takes skill. I think it can be achieved safely, but there is a definite technique to doing so which can only be gained from flying with other pilots and instructors who have the necessary skill set, not a commodity in good supply.
You’re about to turn around and then you see a clear patch further on, so you persevere. Then it gets worse again. This repeats as everyone is looking for the next clear patch, assuming the more experienced pilots (instructor) will say “stop” if they aren’t ok.
Yes, Dublin, I know what you mean. But there is one instrument you have that obviates that. It’s called a radio and you can get the wx at destination (albeit not necessarily in between) in real time. In the case we’re discussing here, this would have told them that VFR was no-go, without any ambiguity.
perhaps the thought of arranging the flight up the coast with some alternates also along the coast to the south provided some comfort if the weather proved too much.
If that was the thought process, then they were on the completely wrong track. Also, there are no airfields along that coast, once you’re past Castellon.
172driver – but Castellon is what 60 odd miles off track and an obvious diversion and based on Peter’s graphics almost certainly in better weather. I know maybe they were so low on fuel it wasnt an option by then, but that would also bring into question their diversion reserves be it VFR or IFR.
but Castellon is what 60 odd miles off track and an obvious diversion and based on Peter’s graphics almost certainly in better weather. I know maybe they were so low on fuel it wasnt an option by then, but that would also bring into question their diversion reserves be it VFR or IFR.
Fuji, I agree, but that was in response to your ‘scud-running up the coast’ comment. The hills there go right down to the coast pretty much all the way to Castellon. So, IF scud running is your plan, then you have to descend around there. Unless, of course, you want to let down through the clag over the ocean, always an option, if not a great one. Frankly, I fail to comprehend the decision making that happened on that flight, both before and during.
172driver ah yes, I understand. Of course I dont think we know what impact if any the weather was having, where they were in relation to the weather and the pilot(s) instrument ability. Obvioulsy if for example you find yourself on top then with coastal proximity at least an option is to get yourself over the sea and let down – it may not be ideal, but more ideal than an attempted let down into the hills. FWIW anyone finding themselves in this situation and I think in the absence of the ability to fly an approach if you can get yourself on top to a coastal airport a let down over the sea in the vicintiy should also be on the basis of knowledge of the conditions beneath the base, because the airport will be quite capable of passing that to you. I agree the conditions for a non instrument rated pilot in the clag beneath my be pretty unappealing, but at least you give yourself a chance.
I agree I think without more information everyone is struggling with the decision making process, unless, as I said earlier the weather was never a factor, and it was a mechanical failure. Mind you even for an instrument pilot, without weather radar, it seems a challenging mission.
I agree with Dublinpilot. Link to a May 2018 UK Accident Report. The response of the Air Traffic, and Rescue services is impressive, but the “in between” management wasted 2 hours, 41 minutes. Low hours pilot, rented but very competent aircraft, in an environment the pilot was unfamiliar with. The 1500 metre vizability is crazy – see what at 1500 metres, a white house on a dark shore, or a fogbank against calm, grey, sea and a grey, low, sky? And no lifejackets.
Looking at the flight track I only see an aircraft dealing with an area of bad weather and trying to find an escape route.
The flight path/profile does not show any clues for an aircraft having engine problems.
This could be a misunderstanding on behalf of the ATC controller or the crew masked their real problem, i.e. they were too shy to admit they were having a problem with the weather instead.
Also there is no 360° turn but more of a 270° turn. Remote possibility a 180° turn rolling out too late on a wrong heading, but definitely indicating an aircraft trying to find a way out.
If they would have been looking for a suitable (engine out) emergency landing opportunity we would see more random flying on the track.
Will the truth ever be found without a FDR (flight data recorder)?
That’s why accident reports use the term “Probable cause” …