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Old 12-23-2013, 12:15 PM
pmccoy's Avatar
pmccoy pmccoy is offline
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Orange County CA
Posts: 646
Default 180 Turn Back to Chino

This last Saturday my wife and I decided to fly up to Big Bear, from our home base of Chino. The sky was a mix of clouds, haze and several very large openings where I could easily fly up and over the clouds and haze. At least that was the plan. I called FSS and got a weather briefing. My route of flight (all 25 minutes of it) was listed as partly cloudy. Chino, Ontario and San Bernardino all had partly cloudy skies, VFR conditions with haze and visibility of 6 to 10 miles. Big Bear was clear with unlimited visibility. Driving to the airport I had noticed several areas where the sky was overcast, but plenty of large gaps in the clouds to climb on up. When I arrived at Chino, the sky was hazy but clear above and to the North East. My assumption was a direct routing to Big Bear, which would allow me to climb up through the clear sky I could see heading North East. The sky directly North looked worse, and had a overcast layer around 3,000 feet.

The go decision was made and we headed out to the end of the runway for take off. I asked the tower for a downwind, North East departure direct to Big Bear. The tower gave me a squak code and I was cleared for take off. Turning downwind the Chino tower passed me off to Ontario's tower (Class C). At this point I had a nice large area of clear sky directly ahead of me. Ontario advised me to maintain VFR and turn North. They wanted me to fly directly over the top of the field, to avoid traffic. This was not what I wanted to do, but as I was in Class Charlie airspace I made the turn to the North. The sky was partly cloudy, but the areas of clear sky were smaller heading North. As I progressed North over the field, Ontario handed me off to SoCal Approach. The frequency was as busy as I have ever heard it, and I was having trouble finding a break in the chatter to check in. Meanwhile, as I am still heading North, the sky is becoming fully overcast and the visibility is dropping quickly. At this point I have just crossed directly over the top of Ontario, and have not made contact yet with SoCal. The sky was closing in, and the visibility was dropping. The clouds in the basin were collecting in front of the San Gabriel mountain range, which was making my flight path very difficult. I knew the mountains were directly in front of me, but I could not see them at all. Time to make a decision.

I made the decision to make a 180 degree turn, and headed directly back to the Ontario airport. SoCal called me and I let them know I had to return to Chino. They passed me back to Ontario's tower and I was cleared to overfly the airport again. Back past Ontario I called Chino and proceeded to land safe at my home airport.

Looking back on this, the entire flight was maybe 10 minutes. I was passed off to multiple controllers, who were routing me based on other traffic in the area. The routing took me away from where I wanted to go, and put me smack dab in the middle of sky conditions that I was not comfortable flying in. I suppose I could have kept scud running under the clouds and waited for another patch of clear, but being in controlled airspace was not allowing me to follow the exact routing I wanted. I pulled the trigger and made the turn for home.

Back at Chino, my wife and I got in the car and made the long drive up to Big Bear. I kept looking out the window as we drove, overcast, sunny, hazy, overcast, sunny.... each nice big patch of clear sky made me think about should I have pressed on. Once we started up the mountain road we found beautiful clear sky at about 5,500 feet. In the end, we were safe and sound. It was not a big deal to drive, and we were never really in any danger. I maintained proper VFR clearance at all times in the flight, I just didn't like the direction I was heading. Bailing out and heading back was the call that made me feel good at the time.
Peter McCoy
RV9A N35PM S/N:91335
First Flight: April 2013
Hobbs: 400 hours after Oshkosh 2017
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Old 12-23-2013, 12:21 PM
David Paule David Paule is online now
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Boulder, CO
Posts: 5,073

Well done!

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Old 12-23-2013, 12:38 PM
sandpiper sandpiper is offline
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: Independence, OR
Posts: 317

Better to be on the ground wishing you we're up there as opposed to the other way around. Good choice.
John Horn (donated for 2020)
Independence, OR
Rotax Service, Maintenance, and Heavy Maintenance Trained
Building an RV-12, N7878H reserved
Flying a Flight Design CTSW
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Old 12-23-2013, 02:58 PM
N64GH's Avatar
N64GH N64GH is offline
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: KCCB
Posts: 202
Default Good job


You did great you did not feel comfortable so you turned back. The drive up to Big Bear is nothing to being in the air and not happy or scared. Worse frightening your wife and getting her afraid to flying because of a bad experience. Or even worse balled up into a heap in the side of one of our mountains.

If I may here a few things I learned from folks along the way that may help avoid that drive up to Big Bear (I know it well) or make a successful trip across the country. You probably already know but in the off chance you do not here are things I have learned.

First specifically getting to L35 a tip "Condor" taught me is if ONT is reporting 2400 getting out through the Cajone pass is most likely an option. He demonstrated this to me a few times and I have done it my self. First check to make sure APV and L35 are clear. Being L35 has 300+ clear days a year this is almost a sure thing. Then fly along the foothills north of ONT class C and around L67 (Rialto) basally follow the 15 north. Stay to the right and slow so you have plenty of time and room to turn around if you do not see things starting to clear up at the pass. The ceiling usually gets higher and higher and then clear blue sky. Turn right over Arrowhead and on to bluff lake and in to L35 or any other points you desire. Getting out is the easy part you can see if the clouds are clearing. Coming back well that makes me nervous. Diving down to get under clouds bugs me more than flying from cloudy to clear. Plus till you get to where the 215 splits off from the 15 it is hard to tell what conditions are in the valley. OK or not so OK. But again if ONT is 2400 chances are you are good to go. Personally I like 3000 but Gary has been flying much longer than me and his comfort level is higher. It requires a certain comfort level but it is an option and once you do it you wonder "why the heck did I not think of that"? By the way my "outs" are L67, SBD or ONT. If you feel comfortable to take off those three are almost always clear. Applies for coming back down the pass. SBD has BIG, LONG and WIDE runways and I have yet to have a day that I felt comfortable taking off when I could not see SBD and from a long way away.

Also in regards to flying around her in the LA basen work on finding routs around where you do not need to talk to ATC. My favorite flight instructor Ron noticed I depend on ATC quite a bid. A crutch I believe he mentioned. So he makes me fly around finding routs to go from A to B without talking to SoCal or another tower except for where I want to land. Real irritating as he never does this on the ground he always throws it at me in the air. Any way it has helped me quite a bit. For instance I never would have seen that LITTLE space between the inner circle of ONT and the the POC class "D" UNDER the outer circle of ONT class "C". Fly below 2700 following the storm drain and you can get to CCB above the TPA. Easy flight from CNO and no ATC required (I do listen though) then off to L35.

Now this next this next item I learned from my pretty little Controller that is usually sitting next to me in my RV but it applies to everyone. Talk to ATC. They do not bight (much). If if you do not tell them what you want they do not know. If they issue instructions and you follow them they assume you are OK with it. It does not need to be a long drawn out explanation (they usually do not like that any way) just tell them what you would like to do, or tell them what you are seeing that you do not like. If they want an explanation they will ask. Most of the time they accommodate you with out need to explain. They are there to help you. Even the gruff sounding dude that works that sector and sounds like he might actually bight even he tries to give you what you want. If all else fails a great conversation starter is "unable" to anything you are not comfortable with. Bottom line with ATC is they are there to help you and they usually do. However you must talk to them. Be concise and friendly and they return the favor. Well most of the time.

This last item will ruffle some feathers but I tell you it works. Have your wife talk to ATC (don't work so well with female controllers I admit). Yes mine is a pilot and a controller however she almost never says anything you or me or any another pilot don't say. Something about a "little" female voice works magic with ACT. I cannot describe it but when she turns on the radio charm we get everything and more. I am just saying give it a try.

Any way my 2 cents that may or may not help you. Your mileage may vary.

Again good job.
Mike Divan
N64GH - RV6,flying
Once an Airman always an Airman (SSgt 78-82)
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Old 12-23-2013, 04:01 PM
BobTurner BobTurner is offline
Join Date: Dec 2011
Location: Livermore, CA
Posts: 7,859

Originally Posted by sandpiper View Post
Better to be on the ground wishing you we're up there as opposed to the other way around. Good choice.
I tell my students - vfr and ifr - to never second guess a 'no-go' decision. Good judgement means being disappointed sometimes, but the alternative, quoted above, is far worse. Good call on your part.
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Old 12-23-2013, 06:00 PM
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Gash Gash is offline
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Goodyear, Arizona
Posts: 953

Good judgment...well done!
Karl, Goodyear, Arizona (KGYR) ATP, CFII
Yak 50
=VAF= donor 2021
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Old 12-23-2013, 06:14 PM
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777Dave 777Dave is offline
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Picton, Ont., Ft. Myers, Fl
Posts: 312
Thumbs up decision

Thumbs up from me too, cumulo-granite is worth avoiding...
Short story... flying north to south through the Adirondacks in N.Y. in a C150 years ago as a new pilot. Scattered to broken but lots of snow showers. Friend in another 150 decided to continue and dodge the hills and showers, I decided to detour around the mountains following a railway line. I arrived in Albany about 15 minutes later than he did and I had to pay for U.S. Customs to wait, he did not.
Who made the right call?
After 22,000 hours, I am satisfied with my decision.

P.S. I did not have my wife with me! ; ))
P.S.S. She still flies with me!
Dave Main

Membership due Oct., 2022
RV-4 0-360-188 Catto 3-blade C-FTDQ...

Last edited by 777Dave : 12-23-2013 at 06:26 PM. Reason: extra stuff
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Old 12-24-2013, 11:39 AM
ReidVaitor ReidVaitor is offline
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: SoCal
Posts: 193
Default Nice decision

Nice decision to make the turn around versus trying to make it work. It is very busy airspace. The other option was to cancel flight following and pursue your route. regardless you made the right decision!
With all the NTSB stories out there its great to see the other side when the right decision was made early in the chain of events and the person made their destination, albeit by car but safely.
Thanks for sharing!
Hope we'll see you at Havasu next week for the fly-in!
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Old 12-25-2013, 11:45 AM
acroflyrgirl acroflyrgirl is offline
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Tucson, AZ
Posts: 406
Default 180 is always good.

Now when I plan through airspace that requires an ATC clearance I know I may have to retreat. I've had more than one occasion where I needed to go through some class B to make my VFR flight work where I was denied the access I needed to remain VMC. No option there except for the 180.

If possible I make an alternate route in case ATC cannot accomidate. Sometimes though the terrain around the airspace works against me.
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Old 12-25-2013, 12:22 PM
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rvmills rvmills is offline
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: Georgetown, TX
Posts: 2,156

It was a good call Pete. Crossing over ONT northbound, there is not much distance before you get to really big rocks, as you know. Deteriorating vis with high terrain ahead, and a clobbered freq is a bad mix, so well done.

I know you were fighting ATC congestion, but a tool for your hip pocket in a similar situation might be to tell the initial controller that vectored you north, that you'd be unable to maintain VFR on that heading, and tell him the heading you need. They might be able to accommodate that, and just control you more closely through their busy airspace. As was said by a couple others, if ATC knows what you are looking at and what your request it, they might be able to work with you. If they can't, you can make the no-go call there, or call a workable audible.

Not second guessing you at all, it sounds like a dynamic situation, and ya done good! Hope to see you guys at HII on the 1st!

Bob Mills
RV-S6 "Rocket Six" N49VM
Cross Country-Marshall Field (07TS)
Georgetown, TX
President/Sport 49, Sport Class Air Racing
Trustee, Formation Flying Inc (FFI)
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