Scenario #3: Northern flying at its finest.
You are an eager pilot, working in the far north. You are fortunate enough to have found a job working for a living legend of the north. This man has been flying in the north for his entire career and is well known for his great flying ability. He has been in a couple of accidents over the years but has always survived, and once had to walk 100 mi. before he reached a tiny settlement and was rescued. He has regaled you with stories of his flying exploits, and it seems that he has tackled some very challenging flying; you are learning a great deal from his experiences.
You have been working for the company for six months, flying the company's Cessna 172 on charter flights throughout the area. You have put in 370 hr in that six months, and you feel very confident in the Cessna 172, and in your ability to navigate around the area. In fact, you cannot wait until you upgrade to one of the more interesting aircraft in the fleet, since the Cessna is so simple and docile that it is almost boring.
Today's flight is very simple. It involves carrying one passenger to a nearby airport, about 20 min away. There, you will pick up another passenger and take him to a destination about one hour further away. From there, you pick up one passenger and bring him back to your home base. You are supposed to leave at 10 a.m. and should be back home by about 2:30 p.m. This is not a long day of flying, but it will be a dawn-to-dusk trip, this far north in the middle of the winter. You are looking forward to a party that is planned for the evening, and you are certainly hoping to make it back for that.
The weather is often
a challenge at this time of year, and today is no exception. The area forecast
reads as follows:
PTCHY BKN SC 15-25/60 LCL CIG 5 AGL 2-6 SM -SHSN LCL 1 SM BR
The forecast is
calling for a slight deterioration in the weather with an approaching cold
front. The departure airport has no official weather observations, but the
actual weather as reported from the two airports you are headed to are as
Airport 1: 00000KT 10SM OVC004 M17/M21 A3046 RMK ST8
Airport 2: 00000KT 15SM -SN OVC011 M15/M17 RMK ST8
The weather at the departure airport appears to be about 600 ft overcast with good visibility. The route to the first airport is over a river valley. The same river valley can take you to the second airport, but it is a semi-circular route. A direct flight is about 15 min faster, but takes you over terrain that is 2 800 ft ASL. A third route follows a winter road and is a little longer than a direct track, but the terrain reaches 2 000 ft ASL.
You do a walk around of the aircraft. Everything is in good shape with sufficient fuel and oil for the trip. Fuel is available at the other airports, should it be necessary. Your passenger arrives and you are ready to go.
What do you do?
The first leg of the trip is easy. The visibility is good. The ceilings are low, but you will be over a river valley so there should not be a problem. When you arrive you can have a look at the conditions and make a decision about continuing.
The visibility is good for now, but there is a good chance that you could encounter areas of reduced visibility in snow. The low ceilings will keep you in the valley and you won't be able to fly around any of the bad weather. So there really isn't any point in going anywhere today.