I'm a 40 hour student pilot about 2/3 through my PPL. My instructor has me endoursed for 3000 ft ceilings, 9 miles visibility, and 7 kt crosswind component. However, I feel most comfortable in 4000 ft, 10 miles, and 5 kts.
I usually set my students at 2000ft ceilings (local, and 3000ft for x-countries since we're in mountainous terrain), 7sm and 7kts crosswind. I've found they normally carry that over into their first few hours of Private flying.
my PPASEL training limits were 3000' & 5, 20kt with 7kt max crosswind.
As a now instrument-rated pilot, I don't have set personal limits as far as a firm ceiling, visibility, or wind. I take all factors into consideration as they are presented on that particular day before making a go/no-go decision. The aircraft I'm flying (and its avionics), the airport I'm flying from as well as to - these are factors also. Someone once told me getting your IR makes the go/no-go decision much more complicated, and they were right.
I used to go by what the flight school set for student pilots, and then as my experience grew I would make up my decision based on the flight - was I familar, how far was it, is the weather going to improve, etc?
Most of my actual time came from my long cross country in instrument, got 4.5 actual in a C172. Coming back the ceiling was at 800ft. Like some others have posted i never got a whole lot of choice either.
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Not to mention regs. I don't know what airspace and congestion is like around there, but thats pushing it a little, don't you think?
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The ONLY time I've ever done this is during a time the marine layer is dissapating in late morning/early afternoon, and only for local flights. The area directly to the east of the airport (right on the coast) has to be clear, which it generally is.
I wouldn't go around doing this if I was blatantly breaking FARs. This is not scud-running, and I do maintain proper VFR mins.
Yeah a lot of the times around here you'll barely get out VFR only to have the field go 6 in haze and clear within a half hour - typically happens in the morning when the coastal stratus and fog are burning off.
I'd say it's pretty important to compare forecast weather with what is actually happening and with what has happened.
5sm / 5000' ovc can be great weather or horrible weather depending on the terrain, distance, location, etc of the flight so there is no way to set your own concrete minimums IMHO - especially since it's so important to check what the weather is forecast to do vs what it has been doing.
For socal, I personally check the temp / dewpoint spread pretty closely when the flight is at night or in the evening. Sometimes it'll be forecast to be clear but dense fog will develop anyways. When you see those halos around the airport lights at night and a lot of moisture on the windshield you know it's going to be foggy when you get back regardless of what the weather guy says. Also, it's hit or miss as to when the marine layer is 'supposed to' form / dissipate so it's important to again check the temp / dew spreads and winds.
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Like some others have posted i never got a whole lot of choice either.
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By no choice, I mean that over here, when you're needed somewhere and you get the alert klaxon going off, you launch, pretty much regardless of departure WX and regardless of if you have a workable alternate. In the target area, you know the terrain, so if it's undercast, you simply descend through until you can get to some semblance of "below" in order to work the area visually, hopefully with a mile or more horizontal viz.
GA, on the other hand, usually has a choice regarding WX. Prior planning and visual observation minimize the times that someone will get caught in the WX. And few flights are "must go".
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In the target area, you know the terrain, so if it's undercast, you simply descend through until you can get to some semblance of "below" in order to work the area visually, hopefully with a mile or more horizontal viz.
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What's the topography in *your* area?
Do you have any computerized terrain avoidance gear in the A-10 or is it all charts, personal knowledge, and situational awareness?