Your VFR Minimums

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by MarcoDA40, Aug 12, 2018.

  1. MarcoDA40

    MarcoDA40 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    As the title states..

    A long (possibly my longest) VFR XC is coming up in less than 2 weeks and I will have the "luxury" of being dynamic with plans and return days(see my other thread). It's summer, almost every single day, everywhere on the east coast is scattered thunderstorms. I would like to be able to safely fly even when the conditions may not be "the best" (obviously within safe limits, of course)
    I know everyone and every situation is different as far as minimums and there isnt really a "set in stone" rule (there might be for some) but since I'm doing a local flight tomorrow with some weather that could count as minimums(or not), I would like to know some of your decision making insights.

    Example:

    Tomorrow I want to go up (with a couple of co-workers) and practice on leaning the engine better and just fly around using autopilot to gain more "trust" with it. (140hrs, maybe .3 of has been flown by the autopilot, in a fully equipped autopilot plane).

    I wanted to climb a little high and really work on leaning at different altitudes and such.
    TAF as of now is as follows:
    23007KT P6SM VCSH SCT020 BK040

    Looks like I wouldn't be able to climb high and working on leaning like I wanted. Thats fine, I could still work on getting comfortable using the autopilot but I would probably want to do that a little high too. That's fine. I could practice landings and take offs but heres where the question comes in:

    I would like to fly local but not necessarily only in the pattern since I would love to fly my friends around. I will go with the mentality of staying in the pattern and if the weather looks good enough and I feel confident maybe fly within the vicinity.

    What should I look for and keep an eye out as I make my decision to leave or stay the pattern? I know its an obvious question (lowering ceilings, vis, etc) but just trying to get some different perspectives and experiences from you folks.
     
  2. benyflyguy

    benyflyguy Line Up and Wait

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    Where you flying out of?? Where you looking to go?
    As an East coaster I can tell you that you can wait for a good forecast all week and never fly or choose to go up for a trip and get stuck somewhere waiting for cells to clear. I’ve done both. From a forecast standpoint I find the short term and long term forecast more telling as far as understanding when good VFR windows are going to exist.
    What kind of onboard weather do you have available?
     
  3. Zeldman

    Zeldman Final Approach

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    Depends on where I am flying.
     
  4. MarcoDA40

    MarcoDA40 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Flying out of KPGV
     
  5. James331

    James331 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    As someone who can pull a IFR..

    Also experience and type, I’ll fly some low level stuff on floats along a coast.

    You need to trust you own gut and not care about what anyone else does.
     
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  6. Shepherd

    Shepherd En-Route

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    Wisdom comes from discernment, discernment comes from experience.
    That's just a really Zen way of saying "practice".
    The time line is different for everyone. So is the environment. I'm lucky I have dozens of towered and untowered airstrips within a 50 mile radius. There is always an "alternate" to fly into. One of the class "D" airports has runways 11817 and 6000 feet long. Hard to miss, even in zero/zero conditions.
    When the weather is crummy stay in the pattern until it doesn't bother you that it's crummy.
    Then fly a few miles out and back. Repeat until it feels OK.
    Take bigger steps as your ability and confidence increase.
    Crummy today might mean 6 miles visibility. In a year it might mean 5 miles, in 3 years It may mean 3 miles. Figure out what works for you.
    Study, memorize your systems so you can touch every button, switch, knob and handle without looking at them, it could save your life. As they have been known to say "Looking away can ruin your day."
    And just keep flying.
     
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  7. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner En-Route

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    As others have said, it’s individual, and it’s a gradual process.

    What I would suggest, though, is to always set hard minimums for the flight before you take off. This may be based on terrain, airspace, landable alternates, what the restrictive weather condition is, etc., and don’t change it downward without landing and re-evaluating on the ground so you’re less likely to be tempted to go “just a little lower”. Then, set hard minimums again (higher, lower, or the same), and take off when weather conditions permit those minimums.
     
  8. asicer

    asicer En-Route

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    I think for me personally, trends are more important than hard minimums. Is it getting better? Worse? The hardest is if it's supposed to stay the same but might get better/worse. However, I tend towards conservatism and always leave several "outs" if things don't turn out as forecast. The one exception is if I'm doing pattern at a towered airport where SVFR is not prohibited and I have a clear view of whatever is closing in.
     
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  9. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner En-Route

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    At what point do you take advantage of your “outs” if you only look at trends without any hard minimums?
     
  10. asicer

    asicer En-Route

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    I never said that I don't have minimums.
     
  11. falconkidding

    falconkidding Pre-takeoff checklist

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    2 miles for local stuff and 800ft ceilings. Any less is a bit sketchy. For xc 3k ft ceilings predicted and ill send it
     
  12. chemgeek

    chemgeek Pre-takeoff checklist

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    You may learn little from others what YOUR minimums should be. YOUR minimums should be based on your personal flight and weather experience and capabilities. Start slow and conservative. What is legal or even acceptable for others will potentially VERY uncomfortable for you. Barging around in 3 miles vis in haze can be awful even with unlimited ceiling, especially in unforgiving terrain. And 5000 foot ceilings and good vis could be a bad choice in an approaching frontal situation with convective activity likely. If I'm flying VFR any distance I want to know a bigger WX picture. For me anything remotely constraining in terms of ceiling or vis will drive me to file IFR. It's just not worth the discomfort to fly VFR in marginal conditions.

    Before the IR I might have flown in 3000-5 for a single leg XC but not now when it's too easy to file and get on top in the clear. For multiple legs (more than one tankful) assessing the weather takes on more uncertainty.

    By all means set your own appropriate limits, get the big WX picture, and go fly. When you take a trip and decide you won't be doing that again anytime soon, you've found your personal minimums. I think we've all been there. The more experience you gain, the better your judgment will get. (Hopefully :))
     
  13. zaitcev

    zaitcev En-Route

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    One thing I noticed is, if the clouds have crisp, well defined bases, it does not matter how low they are (within reason). If they have ragged, misty bottoms, I will not deal with them unless airports start reporting well in excess of 2000 AGL. Same if it rains or snows.
     
  14. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner En-Route

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    Yup...farting clouds are bad news!
     
  15. WannFly

    WannFly En-Route

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    For long XC, more than 100 nm, I ain’t flying with pax unless the ceiling is 8k and 10 sm vis. If I am alone, I will do 6k and 6SM . I have flown in haze with reported 4 sm vis, but was on IFR plan with a CFI, not doing that under VFR rules. Legal doesn’t mean safe.

    Call me sissy, but when it’s my fat arse up there, it’s my way
     
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  16. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner En-Route

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    As long as you don't impose your standards on others, I've got no problems with your minimums.

    Besides, you'll be WAY above me, so there's no chance of a collision. :D
     
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  17. TylerSC

    TylerSC Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I’m sure you know that forecast is not very reliable. That said, if that were the METAR, I (160 hours) would not be worried about flying around at 1500 feet. You should be able to see any rain showers and fly around them. There might be large areas of open skies and you could climb up. There are many other airports around you if you need to go somewhere else. The most important thing for my planning in summer in our part of the country is figuring out when the fog is supposed to lift, and then when serious convection is supposed to start.
     
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  18. kyleb

    kyleb En-Route

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    That sounds about right, although I will do a "flatland" X/C with ceilings <3,000'.
     
  19. Flocker

    Flocker Pre-takeoff checklist

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    +1
     
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  20. Flocker

    Flocker Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Crucial. Watched the wx loop over GMU on Friday for 2 hours before we decided to go. In route, it was all about watching the movement/development of cells and the lightning strikes. We ended up timing it perfectly landing right behind the t-storms as they headed off to the east...we always had an out.
     
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  21. Sinistar

    Sinistar Cleared for Takeoff

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    Just some general ramblings from someone with similar hours...and no AP :(

    I have written out my personal minimums and ironically a ceiling of 4000agl is my limit. I know that means buzzing around just 3500 above ground which is maybe, almost 3min to glide with an engine out.

    And it's likely that flying just 500ft under that ceiling will be bouncy. Throw in the few at 2500 and it will be pretty but once again kinda bouncy.

    You mentioned bringing your friends with. So you have two agendas...trying out plane stuff and giving a ride. I don't have many passengers under my belt but I'm pretty sure all but one would not have been interested in leaning, especially hearing the engine stumble. And AP just means they don't get to fly as much. And pattern work just seems like a no no with sightseers passengers.

    Now add in wx. Youre a bit apprehensive. They will lock onto that. They just want a leisurely ride, not experiments, bumps, apprehension and a possible divert.

    My decision would be to call off the friends for this one. Get on the phone with the briefer and understand the precipitation type and movement better. Then go fly. Fly in general towards to wx (but not too close if convective) so your home base is behind you and safe. Maybe you make it 20min and maybe you make it 60min. Maybe you get bounces around on AP :)

    One of my first passenger flights had rain forecast. I called the briefer. They explained it would be showery, non convective precipitation falling from about 8k agl. It was early evening and forecast to dissipate. So once we climbed out I told my passenger "Fly toward the rain". I knew my escape was behind me and clear. When rain hit the windshield we turned 90deg and flew along it. Very enjoyable flight. I could see the precipitation on adsb but I could also see the lag.

    One last thing. Can you fly in the early evening. Like 1hr before sunset. Here in MN if it ain't going full on convective the winds die down clouds dissipate and it my favorite time to fly.

    Curious what you did?
     
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  22. MarcoDA40

    MarcoDA40 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Thanks for the tips! These are exactly what I was looking for. So I was able to drop my minimums a little bit! yay!!

    I called my friends and asked if we could put it off for another day since I would just be practicing take-offs and landings due to low clouds.. they were fine with it.

    I went with the mentality of staying in the pattern only since the sky looked broken at around 2000ft. Any other day I wouldn't have even thought of flying with a 2k ceiling.
    As I got to the airport and finished pre-flight, I called up AWOS and it was 2500sct, 4000sct.
    I had nice blue holes but the "compression" effect is so real that I almost didnt believe AWOS. I went up and flew a lap, touch'n'goed then decided to venture out a little. Flew straight out and leveled off at 2k. AWOS was pretty accurate(from my prespective) Clouds looked 500ish feet above me. I felt really comfortable flying at 2000ft, so much so that I would fly extended distances at that altitude If I needed to. I could still see the airport at around 7-8 miles out at 2k ft.

    I used to fly with nothing less than a 5k ceiling
    Today, I would feel comfortable with a 3K ceiling, flying at 2,000ft-2500ft.
    Of course, that would depend on even more factors.. precip, visibility, trend, forecast, etc but lets just assume a hard 3k ceiling no TS or anything... lets go flying!

    I also tried climbing above the clouds, scattered, plenty of wide enough holes to go up and down but I felt as If I were doing something wrong.. like I was breaking a rule or something, so everytime I was almost above the clouds, I would feel "wrong: and drop back down. It happened twice. I know I was full VFR but it just felt "wrong". I assume its because its something that ive never done before.. so theres a new personal minimum to work on!
    I also want to work on maintaining maximum forward speed to as long as possible to be able to comply when flying into Bravos and Charlies.

    So next vfr cloudy day I will try to climb above (if conditions allow). I will also work on the speed until 2 miles out, then 1 mile etc etc..
     
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  23. asicer

    asicer En-Route

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    Just make sure those holes are getting bigger and not smaller. ;)
     
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  24. Sinistar

    Sinistar Cleared for Takeoff

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    Awesome!!!! Doesn't it feel great. You pushed your boundaries a bit..on your own.

    I think you were wise to simplify the flight. Whether renting or owned it's easy to want cram 9 things into a flight. Being 500ft under the clouds could have been bumpy but with no passengers it didn't matter. Sounds like you didn't fidget with the AP too much either. So you could just fly.

    I'm getting a bit more comfortable being above scattered. It clicked later, after I got my PPL and recalled a good wx experience with my first cfi. I kept wondering why he was listening continuously to various AWOS and our Delta's ATIS. He was listening for ceilings and the magic word "IFR".

    During flight PPL training, my listen to the ATIS or AWOS each time almost fixated on the winds (I feared x/w landinds) and altimeter.

    Nowadays ADSB in wx is great. Many stations update every 20min or so. And you can see the wind barbs, altimeters, visibity and ceilings all along your path...and behind you!!!.... without having to listen to each one, especially the farther ones which wouldn't come in anyways.

    Another thing you can do is get on with FF. They can then call out the lower traffic which might be coming through a cloud near you. I won't let myself get up above scattered unless I am on FF.

    Hopefully the experts chime in on your steady path to comfort around and above clouds. Sure is Purdy though :)
     
  25. Sinistar

    Sinistar Cleared for Takeoff

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    Oh yeah, you mentioned flying into Charlies and Bravos...did you mean Delta's or do you regularly land at a Bravo???

    I had started a thread regarding best forward speed, some good advice was given there.
     
  26. Tantalum

    Tantalum Pattern Altitude

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    +1 on the trends. Also knowing a bit about the barometer, dewpoint spread, and where the high and low pressure systems are can give you some big insight

    Will it stay hazy all day?
    Is that just haze, or can I expert storms?
    What is that marginal VFR going to do?
    Etc.

    The TAF, etc., are only so good, but looking at the trending and what the actual mechanics are doing can give you a more intimate understanding

    Also, this thread is for "VFR Minimums" - but many of the posters seem seem to be IR pilots, myself included. I know we still have limits with an IR, which are just as, if not more, important.. but do you actually have VFR minimums anymore? I guess I mean, why would you cancel a flight for being "below my VFR minimums" if you can just file (assuming WX is within your IFR minimums?)
     
  27. steingar

    steingar Taxi to Parking

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    If I cana get 1000 feet off the ground and still be 500 feet lower than the cloud deck I'm good to go. I'd like to be able to see 3 miles.
     
  28. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner En-Route

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    Embedded thunderstorms, ice, high MEAs, lack of suitable approaches, lack of IFR-equipped airplane, just to name a few.
     
  29. chemgeek

    chemgeek Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Marco, that's how you are going to gain experience. Little steps. It's great to get on top of a scattered layer, but take care not to get trapped on top. I'm sure that's happened to nobody on this board sometime in their early experience.

    When flying low, do be aware of terrain changes along your route, especially on longer trips. Rising terrain can put on a squeeze with low ceilings. Always leave yourself outs, and you will be fine and gain confidence and experience,
     
  30. zaitcev

    zaitcev En-Route

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    Speaking of which - the visibility can improve significantly (e.g. 10 miles) if one goes off the bases and closer to the ground. This works even if the terrain is less than completely flat (e.g. Ohio, Kentucky).