9:12 PM

Enough of the 'Oregon
Sunshine' Already!


I have been a happy and proud VFR pilot since 1996, and have enjoyed about 300 hours of bliss in the air. There have been some business flights, but the vast majority of that air time has been for fun.

But as many of my readers know, I am about half way through my instrument rating training, working towards the rating that I sure wish I had earned before last week's "overcast from hell" descended on Western Oregon.

Now this isn't a post about the weather here per se, which of course is legendary in all it's wet glory. People who live on the "wet side" of Oregon's majestic Cascade Range live here because they like things green, lush and tasty. Stop by the Farmer's Market in downtown in Eugene on Saturday morning and you'll be introduced to the organic produce of your dreams.

The "wet side" of Oregon is diametrically opposed to the "dry side", which starts at the crest of the Cascades and goes east to the Rockies. The dry side's surface is moon-like, while the wet side's environment more resembles a rain forest (an example is shown in the pic accompanying this post. Yes, that IS my back yard, and no, trolls do not live down there).

And while the high amount of precip we receive is great for lettuce, the low gray clouds that produce the omnipresent moisture also makes VFR flying a tricky proposition for much of the year. Yes, there is SUPPOSED to be a period from May 1 to about October 1 when it is clear and a million, but this year, Mother Nature has shown all of us VFR pilots in the Willamette Valley that SHE'S GOT GAME:

On Thursday of last week, we had scheduled a business trip in the KatyLiner down to California for several agency photo shoots. As the week progressed, a daily ceiling of about 2,000 feet would not budge across the Valley. When Thursday was no different, we scrambled our schedule and planned a Friday departure. But Friday's ceilings were even lower, without a break all day. I thought it was April all over again. So the entire trip was scrubbed, and with an associate in town that was supposed to go on our southbound jaunt, we decided to just wait it out and fly over to the coast on Saturday for some hiking. When Saturday produced – guess what – more low clouds and drizzle, we threw up our hands and sent our passenger back to Portland...on the train.
I reckon the bottom line is this: California has earthquakes, and the Gulf Coast has it's hurricanes. The square states have their seemingly endless killer tornadoes, and the Northeast has ice storms and mountains of winter snow. Given all that, I'll take Oregon sunshine any day, because when the sun does come out, the color of our skies is, get this...blue. I lived in California for 48 years, and thought the sky was supposed to be brownish gray.

Here I am, stuck in the middle of the VFR and IFR worlds. I have crossed the halfway point of my IFR training, and have just enough knowledge and skill to be dangerous. Yes, I could get a clearance, complete a flight in solid IMC, and shoot an ILS or VOR-A approach without loss of life. But could I do that to practical test standards while not busting any regs?

Not a chance.

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