Precision Counts

I topped off a busy work week with a busy weekend of air work.  On Saturday afternoon we departed San Carlos for Salinas to do the Localizer DME runway 31 approach, my first with a DME arc.  We had practiced DME arcs the previous weekend out in the central valley well away from any significant terrain.  As you can see from the approach plate, that isn’t the case with this approach.

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IFR – KSQL to KSNS

After passing my Instrument Rating Airman Knowledge Test last May, I began working through the flight training over the summer.  Unfortunately work and life just got in the way but I have recently picked up the training again and will hopefully be able to complete the complete certification this time around.

I had a training flight scheduled with my instructor, Martin Michaud, this past Friday which happened to coincide with the arrival of an arctic storm system blowing into the bay area.  As I was watching the weather come in, I pretty much gave up hope on making our flight.  The way things were trending, it looked as if the icing layer would be dropping down to 4,000′ MSL.

On Thursday evening I was going over the weather for a planned flight to Stockton (KSCK) and, based on the AIRMETs available at the time, it appeared that the icing layer would be down to 5,000′ MSL for our area, actually for a significant portion of the western U.S.  Ceilings were forecast to be in the 2,000′ to 3,000′ range which would be more than adequate but winds in the Stockton area were forecast to be 12 knots gusting to 20 which would make approaches difficult for a fairly green IFR student.

I got on the phone with Martin to discuss the forecast mentioning my findings.  When we discussed the icing forecast, he directed me to the Aviation Weather Service’s Advanced Digital Data Service icing forecast. The graphical forecast closest to our time of departure had the icing layer between 9,000′ and 10,000′ which would be well above our altitude.  The winds at KSCK were an issue so we looked at Salinas (KSNS) which had more favorable winds (i.e. no significant gusts forecast).  After discussing the weather and route a little further we decided to check back in before I left for the airport in the morning.  If the forecast held with no significant changes we would make the trip. Continue reading