Flying through the gloom

It was apparently VMC this morning – although by the time I got to Lanseria at 7.45, the clouds were hanging low over the threshold.  Usually ATC declares the conditions instrument, but not today.  Still I was staring at length at the cloud base which was 7/8 and looked around 6500.  That’s border line for my standard of flying, with 200 hours and no instrument rating.


After refuelling and doing the checks, it was time to fire up ZS-JAB and head off to runway 07 to do the power runup and Too Many Pilots Go Fly In Heaven Early checks.  No other training flights and only a Citation on the threshold awaiting departure.

Then it was my turn.  Slight wind from 100 and off we go!  Wonderful to take to the skies again,  it was a month ago that I last flew before going on a trip to Greece.  But as I left Lanseria airspace I noticed that the clouds were actually at around 6000.  That’s far too low to make aviating safe around the north of Gauteng with the Magalies mountains sticking up all over the place.

Screen Shot 2014-05-06 at 12.58.28 PM
Other dangers around the Magalies mountains – but not today

I set the VOR for HBV near Hartebeespoort dam and began flying on instruments.  The visibility was actually getting worse, and as I flew over HBV I realised that what had started as a borderline condition had worsened.

Decisions.  Continue flying on instruments at 5800 to Pilansberg,  or call it quits and head back to Lanseria?  The little saint on my left shoulder was saying tomorrow is another day,  while the little devil on my right was saying “hah, you’ve been in worse, continue!”.

I turned to the west and followed the north ridge of Hartebeespoort dam to a notch, flew over with the terrain warning display on, and descended out of the cloud to the GFA close to the red and white radio mast.   The saint had won.

Visibility was so bad,  I couldn’t see the South ridge. I reset the VOR for Lanseria and out of the murk, saw the tracking station below.  No-one else appeared to be flying in the area.  The only calls were coming from Marble Hall.

It’s strange flying towards your airport without a clue about exactly where it is.  With a few hours IF training under the belt, I stuck to the VOR and then at a remarkably short 4 nautical miles, suddenly spotted Lanseria to the left.

It was cleared to final, linked up with full flaps,  and landed sweetly.  No tension, no fear.  Another day of decisions and today they were correct.  This saturday its back in the air for me as I continue to build hours – and I’ll spend an extra two hour slot doing IF training in the CDC Aviation simulator.   Lovely.

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