I had my first day at ATP Sacramento today. I met some super friendly instructors and students, and can’t wait to dive into training!
I wanted to share a flying experience I had this past weekend, as it was a very important learning opportunity for me. I planned a 50-nm flight this past Saturday from my local airport to the Bay Area (renting from another school, just before starting ATP). From briefing the weather, I planned to depart late morning, hang out for a few hours in the Bay Area, then return by mid-afternoon to my local airport. Forecasts (TAFs and MOS) showed VFR to MVFR conditions until around 5pm, decreasing to IFR thereafter. (Note: I only have a PPL, no instrument rating). I departed for the Bay Area and had a relatively uneventful flight, just deviating for some lower clouds near the mountains. Lo and behold, the weather came in sooner than was forecast, basically right after I’d tied the plane down. After a phone call with the flight school’s chief pilot, we decided I’d keep the plane there overnight, and try to return the next afternoon. Fortunately, I had the resources to return home for the night, and back to the Bay Area the next day. Conditions improved enough for me to fly home late yesterday afternoon.
This was a very informative and humbling experience for me. Forecasting is a science AND and art. I was over-reliant on it, and was certainly pressured by some “getthereitis”, having plans with my girlfriend and her family in the Bay Area. Looking back, I should’ve taken the conservative approach and cancelled the flight altogether. As I’ve had to learn, aviation has many many uncertainties. The priority should ALWAYS be safety.
Good learning experience and I am glad it all went well for you. As you know, the weather in the Bay Area can change on a moment’s notice. I have stood on the Golden Gate Bridge and watched the fog roll in like a moving wall. Pretty cool if you are standing on the bridge, not so cool if you are flying a little airplane. Great call to spend the night, the only mistake there was not spending the night down by Fisherman’s Wharf and not eating at the Sotto Mare on Columbus Avenue.
Thanks for the insight, Chris! This flight was actually to Livermore in the east bay. Fog wasn’t the issue but showers and low ceilings/visibilities sure were! I’ll have to go to fisherman’s wharf soon. And back to Half moon bay when it’s clear, that spot is great!
Absolutely a good learning experience for you. When it comes to forecasted weather, the bigger the experience gap the bigger you want the buffer on the TAF. What I mean by that is, you only have a private license and the weather is forecasted to turn IFR. That’s a big threat with huge consequences if you’re stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time. So if it says, it’s forecasted at 5pm, I would subtract maybe 6 hours from it and plan to be back at your home airport by about 11am. If it rolls in 3-5 hours early, you’re still well in the clear.
Once you get an instrument rating, but still relatively new to IFR flying maybe you can cut that buffer to 3 hours. If it turns IFR, you’re alright but don’t want to willingly go in to hard IMC as a solo newly rated instrument pilot as that’s adding addition threat. When you’re a CFII, that’s when you can fly there even if it’s IFR because you have the experience and confidence to operate in that realm safely.
Thanks for sharing your first day at ATP with us and this experience, this is a way that others can learn from your experience.
Soon you will be able to apply that type of thinking and preplanning when you’re doing your crew cross-country flights at ATP. You will always want to carry an overnight bag if not a little suitcase with 2-3 days’ worth of clothes in the event you couldn’t complete your total route for the day.