Personal Minimums

Was reading some aviation magazines and blogs last night, mostly about “exciting” flights or accidents and it got me thinking that despite 300 hours of flying time I am still quite the ‘fair weather’ flyer. I find it hard to understand people who fly VFR into IMC because if the weather looks anything like it would be like that I don’t go, or I file IFR. Maybe this makes me a wuss, I don’t know. It obviously means I don’t fly as much as I could (though to be honest my wallet is the main captain of that decision).

Shortly after getting my Private certificate I took a short VFR trip to Riverside Municipal airport. Visibility was 4 miles which is VFR, right?! Getting to the LA basin I was met with a wall of haze, very hard to see much of anything. I had my Anywhere Map GPS showing me the way but it was not pretty. The tower gave me “suggested headings” to find the field but I can’t believe how late I saw it; the tower was still reporting 4 mi.

There are a few small hills on the way out of Riverside back to San Diego and I decided that my GPS would keep me out of the way. So, of course, on departure the PDA that was running the software froze and that was no longer an option. Some quick dead reckoning came up with turns and times and I was soon out of the murk and my heartrate back to normal. I called FlightWatch and RAL was still reporting 4 miles.

I really can’t believe that was 4 miles or, if it truly was, then I can’t believe that VFR minimums are 3 miles because I couldn’t see much of anything useful. So one of my personal minimums is 5 miles vis if I am going VFR, less than that and its IFR.

3 thoughts on “Personal Minimums”

  1. I’m a wuss too – and proud of it! 🙂

    Actually, I probably need to stretch my personal minimums a little more often, but I’d rather be too cautious than the other way around. I figure my limits will get slowly stretched naturally overtime, kind of like you experienced with that VFR flight.

  2. Conservative pilots are living pilots, right? With my whopping 30.9 hours of flight time, I find 5 sm vis to feel smothering! I don’t like not being able to distinguish the ground from the sky! (Then again, I can only judge distance if judging means reading it off the GPS…)

  3. I have allowed my personal minimums to stretch a bit as I have grown more experienced, but 5 miles vis is my minimum. The AOPA Air Safety Foundation has a pretty good flyer on aeronautical decision making and personal minimums. You should check it out.


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