Scenario #4: Are you qualified for this flight?

You have just been upgraded to the company's Cessna 402, after working a season flying the Cessna 185. The training for the 402 involved many familiarization flights, riding along in the right seat on revenue flights to see how the operation works. You were allowed to fly from the right seat on many of these flights, but the pilot-in-command made all of the decisions and simply told you exactly what to do and when to do it. This was followed by a few hours of dual instruction prior to your pilot proficiency check (PPC) flight. Although the chief pilot told you that your first few flights would be VFR flights, this policy seems to be ignored when flights are scheduled. You have done a handful of revenue flights in the 402 and two of them have been IFR trips. You still find the aircraft to be a handful, and single pilot IFR is very busy. Fortunately both IFR trips involved reasonably good weather and you had the runway in sight by 1 000 ft AGL.  

Today you are scheduled to fly the 402 to a remote airport at a First Nations reserve, carrying a group of band administrators back to their home. The flight is just under 90 min long. This airport has a non-directional beacon (NDB) on the end of one runway, and the approach simply involves flying over the NDB, turning outbound and letting down to the procedure turn altitude, doing the procedure turn, and then letting down to 700 ft AGL. This takes you right overhead the airport, and from this point you conduct a circling approach for the runway. You have been to this airport quite a few times, in the 185, and you have flown there in the 402, from the right seat, on a familiarization flight. You have never done this particular instrument approach but it doesn't seem especially difficult.

The weather is forecast to be good until late in the afternoon when an approaching cold front is supposed to deliver the first snowfall of the year. You are hopeful that you can get the flight done before the front arrives. Your passengers are supposed to arrive by 2 p.m. and you should have them home by 3:30 p.m., and you hope to be back at base shortly after 5 p.m., just as the first snowflakes begin to fall. By 2 p.m., you have the airplane fuelled, the walk around completed, and the flight plan filed. You are waiting in the office for your passengers, and no one else is around except for the receptionist. The other pilots are all out on other flights. At 2:30 p.m., you decide to call your passengers to find out their estimated time of arrival (ETA) at the airport, but you are unable to reach anyone. You call and delay the flight plan. Shortly after 3 p.m. you check the weather again, and it is still good, but forecast to start deteriorating shortly after 4 p.m. It is forecast to be down to minimums at your destination by 5 p.m. Official night time begins at 4:54 p.m.

At 3:30 p.m., your passengers finally arrive and are anxious to be on their way. What do you do?

Leave the flight for a more experienced pilot to do.  You feel the challenge of a circling approach at night in a snow storm is too much for you, considering your limited experience with the Cessna 402. Additionally, you haven't done any night flying for six months and you aren't sure whether you are allowed to fly passengers without doing some night circuits.

Load the passengers and go.  You are qualified for the flight and everyone expects you to do it.  You feel a little apprehensive because it will be a challenging flight, but if you couldn't handle it, they wouldn't have assigned it to you.