We have recently written about the need for pilots to set personal minimums for every flight but a recent post by Father Scott Garrett for the Alaska Dispatch’s Bush Pilot blog is well worth reading because Father Scott is the pastor of the Holy Rosary Mission in Dillingham, Alaska, and he uses a 160 Cherokee Warrior to visit many of the remoter areas of his parish. Given the unpredictable weather of southwest Alaska and after flying in the Bristol Bay area for five years, Father Scott has acquired a few rules or personal minimums that he will follow religiously before deciding whether to fly or to continue a flight.
To being with and in order for Father Scott to fly in VFR weather, there must be at least three miles visibility and a ceiling of 1000 feet or otherwise its IFR. Here are the rest of his rules.
1. Avoid having to request a "Special VFR." (SEE NOTE BELOW).
2. Takeoff only if departing or arriving destination is reporting VFR conditions.
3. Find out if the weather system is moving in or out.
4. Use multiple weather media, i.e. Dillingham FSS, Kenai FSS, weather cam.
5. Turn around if the ceiling gets below 500 feet.
6. Do not fly unless there is at least 3 miles visibility and 500 foot ceiling.
7. Do not fly if wind is blowing at 30 knots or greater.
Father Scott further added that when the weather looks marginal, he will personally visit the weather professionals up in the Dillingham Flight Service Station to talk to them about their weather data. After that, he will feel much safer if he decides to head out into the Alaskan wilderness. Moreover, he has convinced himself that he does not want to get stranded again in one place for more than three days (like what has happened in the past).
And while you may not be an Alaskan bush pilot, Father Scott’s advice and personal minimums are well worth taking a closer look at to see how they can help to make you a safer pilot.