Luckily, the brilliant thing about flying is that it makes you examine your weaknesses and do something about them. The cockpit is no place for inadequacies or histrionics. After a recent scare with cloud, and an unscheduled landing and overnight stay at Mittagong, followed by an amazing IFR flight to Canberra, I had already decided it is time for an instrument rating. FI have begun the implement of torture that is the IREX, but am as far away from an instrument rating at the moment as I am from being 65 kilos (at LEAST three months, but thankfully the IREX doesn't involve giving up cheese)...
Unluckily, these things take time, and money, and work.
So, when my Webmaster, Clay, came over from the States and had only one day on which we could fly, I exercised my right to plead with the weather gods. I spent Monday in my office overlooking the Bankstown circuit, begging the gods to duplicate this very same day - sunny and crisp - tomorrow, for Clay's once-in-a-trip harbour scenic.
It's been a while since I have obsessively stalked the Bureau of Met. I have learned to let go of flights that are cancelled by weather, as I have learned to let go of flights that are cancelled by illness, a fault on the aircraft, or a plain gut feeling of not wanting to go. Or so I thought.
On Monday night, the weather looked iffy (the technical word being potentially overcast). With a 70% chance of rain, the worst of it looked to be in the morning. At five am, the TAF confirmed the iffiness, but the trend was towards improvement in the afternoon.
|Clay and Kree (Before)|
The Automatic Weather Service claimed the clouds at Bankstown were scattered at two thousand six hundred feet, which is certainly enough to get into the harbour. The service at Sydney was less encouraging, but still possible. I called Sydney Terminal from the flying school and asked about my chances of getting into the harbour and was told "pretty good. Cloud's a bit low, but it's possible"
I filed the plan and went out to check the aircraft. After a struggle (in which Clay nearly broke his wrist!) to get the oil cap off, a search for a fuel drain implement and a discussion about two loose screws on the spats, I gave my passengers a safety brief and strapped them in.
I started the engine, performed the checks, switched on the tower weather service and heard,
"Bankstown terminal information Juliet. Expect instrument approach....visibility six kms..."
I shook my head and shut down the engine.
As I apologised to Clay and Tracey, Clay (a pilot himself) said he understood, stating he wouldn't take off in this weather either.
Up until that point, I had had doubts, but assuaged them by reminding myself that I know the route well, it's coastal, it's fairly low level, it's in controlled airspace....but, at that very moment, my belly said 'no. No. You will not take off in deteriorating weather. Not while you are a five hundred hour VFR pilot. No matter HOW much you want your friends to see the harbour'
|Clay and Kree (After)|
As I neared the city, the sky was dark; the top of Centrepoint barely visible. I knew I had made the right decision. And with that, I stopped at the deli and bought half a kilo of French Brie. While I am alive to enjoy another day, the damn diet can wait...