Plane & Pilot
Monday, March 1, 2004

Learning From Mistakes

The ASRS collects pilots’ admitted blunders so that others can gain knowledge from them

The pilot’s first known contact with the Seattle Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) was at 08:23 for a telephone preflight weather briefing for a flight from Renton (RNT) to Calgary (YYC), Alberta, Canada, with an estimated departure time frame of 9:30 to 10:00. The briefing included three separate routings from: 1) Seattle, Wash., to Vancouver, British Columbia (BC), and, then, to Calgary; 2) Seattle to Spokane, Wash., and, then, Calgary; 3) Seattle south toward Portland, Ore., then, east along the Columbia River toward The Dalles, Ore., and, then, via Spokane to Calgary. The briefer recommended against VFR flight and the pilot chose to delay the departure about an hour and then recheck the weather.

There was a second call to the Seattle AFSS at 9:44, during which the pilot received an updated weather briefing for a flight from RNT to Spokane (GEG). The briefing included routings from: 1) Seattle to Spokane direct over the Cascade Mountains; 2) Seattle to Spokane via a routing south toward Portland, east along the Columbia River toward The Dalles and, then, Spokane. The briefer recommended against VFR flight on the direct routing and indicated that the southerly route was better. The briefer also advised the pilot that the recently transmitted terminal forecast for the Spokane area indicated VFR conditions with intermittent periods of overcast at 2,500 feet and three miles visibility due to moderate rain showers and mist. The pilot stated that he would call back in about 10 to 15 minutes to check on conditions on a direct routing.

At 10:29, the pilot telephoned the Seattle AFSS and received an updated weather briefing. The briefer advised of an AIRMET for IFR conditions in the Seattle area, as well as mountain obscuration and icing for the direct routing, concluding with “certainly, VFR wouldn’t be recommended at this time.” The pilot, then, filed a VFR flight plan with the briefer for the southerly route.

At 11:06, the airplane received clearance for takeoff from Renton and, at 11:09, the Renton local controller attempted to contact the pilot to advise him that his transponder was not being received. At 11:14, the pilot contacted the Renton local controller, requesting a frequency change, and was advised of his lack of a transponder signal and, at 11:15, the pilot activated his VFR flight plan. At 12:37, the pilot radioed Seattle flight watch and provided a pilot report from the vicinity of The Dalles and was advised, “We still show along the route for mountain obscurement and icing.”

At 1:52, the pilot radioed the GEG air-traffic-control tower, stating that he was “15 south” and requested the current weather. The controller responded, “Visibility five, light rain, mist, few clouds at 700, our ceiling, 1,100 overcast,” and the pilot responded, “We have a lower ceiling where we are at this altitude.” The pilot indicated that he wanted radar vectors to land at GEG and was, then, switched to Spokane Approach Control.

Just before 1:54, the pilot contacted Spokane Approach Control, indicating he was “12 south.” He, then, requested vectors to land and, when given a discreet transponder code of 0345, advised approach, “We’re having some transponder trouble here.” The pilot, then, radioed that he was 12 miles south of the airport inbound on 350 degrees at an altitude of 2,700 feet, orbiting “just on the bottom edge of the clouds.”

At 1:57, the controller advised the pilot, “I won’t be able to pick you up at that altitude, so, therefore, I can’t give you radar vectors to any type of approach or to the airport” and the pilot, then, inquired as to the weather at Coeur d’Alene (COE), Idaho. The controller responded with the 1:30 p.m., COE weather, reporting, in part, “Visibility reported seven miles, few clouds at 100, ceiling of a 2,000 overcast” and the pilot radioed back, in part, “I’m going to see if I can work my way over to Coeur d’Alene or go back south and pick up a small airport” and stated that he was presently on the 347-degree radial of the GEG VOR inbound.


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