man, oh man!


Well-Known Member
I ventured off tonight on a cross country with my student. Well on the way back ATC alerted us the SNA had gone below VFR mins. No problem I thought, we'll just take the ILS.

So we check the ATIS and find out the Vis is 1 mile and 600 OVR. No problemo, minimums are 255ft. So we circle, and circle, and get vectored, finally, by the time socal is ready to clear us for the approach, the Vis has dropped down to 1/4 mile and a ceiling of 100 OVR. I give it a shot and see how it is. Well, the thing is we also had a low level wind shear alert in effect. All the jets were reporting 50 knot tail winds on final down to 1000AGL then a head wind of 15 knots! YIKES!

Here we go! so I was cleared for the approach and begin my descent, we're getting rocked pretty good right about now descending thru 2000'. As I pass the OM I switch to tower and report inbound. Coming down and down and down, it's VERY hard to keep the needles centered. I'm starting to get nervous about this.

Well, now I'm below 1000' and approach the ground very quickly. My heart starts pumping! I can see the fog layer at about 1000ft AGL going all the way down to the ground as I approach the airport, OK, no more looking outside! So here it goes, 500, 400, 300, approaching minimums, 255! The needles are at full deflection right as I reach minimums, and I almost nearly lost it! I paniced but managed to keep it together.

For some reason I stalled and couldn't go missed. I paused maybe what seemed like forever and it might have been 5 or 6 seconds. Then I saw nothing but the approach lights flashing beneath me, I was in SERIOUS danger! I knew I was less than 200 FT from the ground doing 110 knots. I immedietly applied full power, with full deflection and went missed leaving my heart down at 255 ft.

When I got to minimums, I had full deflection, was off centerline big time, and was more than likely below mins because I frooze for those few seconds, not to mention I had spatial disorientation with a 25 degree bank to the right and I wasn't able to correct because of the sensations I was having. All too common rookie mistakes. (Beleive me, everyone gets these things at all stages and levels of experience).

So I went missed, cancelled IFR and went to an airport called FUllerton 7 miles away. Landed there in VFR conditions, and had a large pizza with my student. An hour later, having called a few people to try and pick us up, my student starts to try and get me to fly back. He says that by the time someone drives down to pick us up, we could be back at SNA doing the paper work. I then turn to him and say, "it's not about time, ITS ABOUT SAFETY!" There will no paperwork if we end up splattered across the 405 Freeway. I begin to block him out of my decision making process and get the updated ATIS. This time the ATIS is reporting 1 mile VIS with 100 Broken. Thats a little better than 1/4 Vis and 100 OVR. So I decide to give it a shot but this time I'm going no lower than 300'.

So I get in and we quickly depart Fullerton airport which is now closed. My instructions to him during this approach were simple, don't talk unless something abnormal is happening. Please monitor my instruments, call out 1000ft, 500ft then every 50ft after that. Look outside and look for approach lights.

So we now down on the ILS again, he calls 500, then 400, then 350, then 300......I look up and see we're still at 350 ft I quickly and loudly say we're at 350 STILL! Here comes 300 and were getting the approach lights in sight!

I swear to god I was pissing in my pants at this point. I dont know why, because I've done approaches down to mins before but something about this one just freaked me out. The FOG was just SOOOOOO thick. RVR was 5500ft. So as I see approach lights in sight, I descend down to 100ft above TDZE, yup! Doing it just like the regs, I get there, and there pops the edge lights and threshold. I still can't see the ground, its BLACK! Only FOG, it was almost like we were in slow motion doing the approach. I felt comfortable at this point making an attempt to land. We greased it in and the fog was still very thick.

Just another chapter in the experience book you can add. These are times that you can't BUY anywhere. I don't recommend doing them purposely or on your own. Definetely take a experienced person with you your first time.

All this for a measly $35/hour! Gotta love it! Yah know, it makes you realize how under paid airline pilots are being able to do that with 200+ people sitting in the back! Think about that!
Good job making it back. I had my first approach to minimums come as a total surprise. Was actually expecting the visual approach and when i got there the fog was still lingering from the morning along the river. So, i shot a localizer.....not as much fun as an ils, but enough to make me piss my pants for a quick second. you are right, you cant buy that stuff anywhere...and you will forever be a better pilot for having experienced it and lived.
Nice job! I haven't done much instrument flying, but because the RVR was above mins you could shoot the approach, even if the vis was 1/4SM and the ceiling 100 ft?
i believe he could shoot the approach, just not land if the weather "was" below mins. my DE on my ifr ride told me its better to take the chance and shoot the approach then hold or divert and risk possibly running out of fuel or worse. The worst that could happen is you go he did. what does everyone else think about shooting an approach when weather is way below mins and you need to get in?
First of all, thanks for your honesty.

I hope that your interview story will contain this, "Next time I hear a pirep about a 65kt windshear and/or low and decreasing vis I WILL GO SOMEPLACE ELSE."

A few questions to think about?

1) Did the runway you were shooting for have centerline lighting? Or were you going to stay in the center seeing only two runway lights on each side? (Hint - try it in a simulator, you'll see what I mean.) It looks like SNA has centerline lighting on my AvChart but I don't have an approach plate with me.

2) Even if you landed, how were you going to taxi in? Do you know the taxiways that well if all you can see is 1000 ft in front of you?

3) What would your response be to the inspector after you landed, when he asks you "what was your in-flight visibility?"

4) Full deflection at minimums - OUCH! Go look at those lights on a clear day and see if you were near some terrain. Oh yeah, bring a change of underwear, because most likely you'll dump twinkies when you see what you just missed.

and #5) My biggest question - If you are approaching at say, 110 kts - what is your airspeed going to be if you go from a 50 kt tail wind to a 15 kt headwind? I know it's hard to stall a light twin, like but 45 kts isn't go to do much for you!

It's a great story but I ask you please - Put this in your "Never Again" or "I learned about flying from that" folder. I'm glad you chose to publish it here. It is something that all low and mid-time IFR pilots need to hear about.

You might send it to Flying or AOPA - they might just publish it.
Sorry if I made it seem pretty worse than it actually was, all these things that happend(having full deflection at DH was out of my control) I had inside the donut the whole way down until I got to the end.
When I was refering to the windshear, that was what was being reported when we left, when we returned it was not that bad.

But yah, this is definetely one story that will go in the record books.

I feel as though I made the best decision at the time. I had asked controllers if any smaller planes were getting thru and he said one just got in. I still went missed. The Wx changes minute by minute. On the second approach an hour or so later, the wx was a little better, and I based my decision on that, and the fact that the windshear had significantly died down. I also told myself this time, my minimums will be slightly higher. When I got to DA, I saw Approach lights, I decided to continue for another few seconds(just like the FAR say you can do another 100ft above TDZE, I then saw the runway lights and felt the situation permitted for a safe landing. There was nothing Illegal about what I did.
You can't go running away everytime you get something like this. I know a lot of guys who do, I used to be one of them.
DIdnt you just get hired by a regional? When i got hired and was waiting in the pool I did nothing at all that could remotely get me in trouble. Is it worth 1.5 hrs in the logbook to lose your job at a regional? That was my thinking on it. If the weather was bad at all. CANCEL. If something is not quite right CANCEL. Youve done your time scrapin for every flight hour you can, and I think that if you got a violation just prior to class youd be shown the door.
Just to be clear, there was a reported 65 knot windshear, weather was below minimums on both visibility and ceiling, and you took a student along?!? What airplane were you flying?
actually, I have toned down the flying by 85% or so. You guys need to give some constructive critism and set a good example instead of bashing. Take it easy there!
Yeah, how bout some questions or constructive feedback. He doesn't need to hear your crap! Usually the one's that talk smack are the one's who haven't been there. Mrivc211, your my boy! Good job. I'm sure this event as well as future one's will help to remind you that this flyin' S#@*t can get ya killed!
Hey I've been in your shoes man. Just learn from it and don't ever loose that little feeling in your know what I mean.
Take care!

Hey Jergar999, so your the perfect pilot here on the boards huh? I was hoping I'd get a chance to me you. It took a good size handful of BALLS to post what Mrivc211 posted. So show some respect and have some tact.
I hope my post didn't show any disrespect. I think you learned a lot about your judgement and your own personal limitations from that experience.
I don't really think so JT. I think your advice was pretty good. I was more referring to the other guy. Any of us with any experience have stories to rival this one, I think you would agree.
Me guy? I didnt think i said anything harsh. If it came across that way sorry. But in the same situation I did things alot of different. Just dont waste all youve worked for to gain an extra buck now.
Yeah, I'm sure none of that was going through his mind.
And no, if you'll read my post I was referring to that other dude with a smart ass tone to his post. At least it sure sounds that way. Anyway, I think Mrivc211 learned a lot that flight and I don't think he needs the type of criticism that came out in your post and especially the other guys. Why do you think he posted this? To let everyone know how brave he is? Don't think so.
I didn't mean to sound harsh, and I'm sorry if I came off that way. I'm certainly nowhere near perfect, but I have just enough experience to know my limitations and those of the aircraft I fly. It just seems to me that in any case knowing the weather and continuing, not to mention setting a precedent for someone who is learning, didn't seem like the best judgement to me. Perhaps someday that student will be in a similar weather situation with the windshear reversed or in poor conditions and make a decision that could potentially be life or career threatening. Congrats to the poster for making it out, and having the courage to tell the story, hopefully others can learn from it.