A Look at the Bright Side of Dark Clouds10:51 PM
From October, 2007 when I brought 8527W north to Eugene from Whiteman Airport in Pacoima (L.A.), I have been working hard on my instrument rating. I earned that rating in March of 2009, and last spring, only got into one weather-related situation that was not a walk in the park. But as fall turns to winter right now, Mother Nature has been in a crappy mood up here. We've had one front after the other, non-stop, with usually only hours between most systems. You can look on the GOES West satellite and usually see a freight train of fronts stretching up to Sarah Palin's house in Alaska, all riding a powerful Oregon-bound jet stream directly to my hangar.
I know for certain that there are two things that will knock Katy and I out of the sky...icing and thunderstorms. On some days when the Northwest is covered in stable air and showers are widespread and consistent, an IFR pilot can punch up through the deck and get on top, cruise above the soup, and descend on an ILS into the wet but basically still air below. But on almost every front that has passed this way in the past 60 days, the air was moist, unstable and dangerous. Big, nasty towering cumulus clouds have been part of nearly every system, along with extremely heavy rain and gusting winds that have approached hurricane strength along the coast. To say the Northwest has not been friendly skies to fly smaller personal aircraft would be an understatement.
On a couple of occasions, I have gone out to fly IFR practice approaches, only to watch a 500-foot ceiling with two miles VIS become one-half mile and a 100-foot ceiling with dropping RVR. One evening, I departed rwy 16L on the east side of the KEUG when the field was reporting VFR, and hoped to be vectored north for a couple of practice ILSs into 16R in VFR. But from the time I took off to the time I reached the southbound turn back towards the airport to start my practice approach, 16R RVR had dropped to "one hundred overcast and about 1,000 RVR" according to ATC...below IFR minimums. So I sidestepped back to still VFR 16L and landed just as the the most ominous fogbank ever unleashed on humanity began creeping east to engulf the runway I had just touched down upon.