Well, I have officially flown an approach to minimums due to weather! What an exhilarating experience! Took some friends for an evening flight last Friday to get some dinner in Scappoose, Oregon (KSPB). Before I was assigned the LOC/DME 15 approach, I snagged the local ASOS (Automated Surface Observation System) and it was reporting a ceiling of 2,000 broken. Sounds like a piece of cake approach. The FAF (Final Approach Fix) was 1800 feet, so I should be out of the clouds by then. Well, I got vectored around for the approach, reached the FAF, descended to the step down fix, and I was still in the clouds. Now I’m at 1100 feet, reached my next step down fix and descended to 600 feet. STILL in the clouds! I can look straight down and see the ground (A little scary, I tell you what), but straight in front of me is nothing but that misty fog Oregon is known for. I reached my last step down fix and descended to the MDA (Minimum Descent Altitude) of 460 feet. And as soon as I got to about 500 feet and began to run through the Missed approach in my head one more time, there it was! Perfectly lined up! It was amazing! At that moment, I truly felt like all that training under the hood down to “simulated” minimums was put to good use! I was definitely not planning on shooting that approach to minimums, but once I landed, I could see that sure enough RIGHT above the airport it was about 2,000 feet broken. But out to the north, where I was shooting the approach, it was nothing but fog. Having said all that, I learned a valuable lesson. You can’t necessarily trust the airport weather observation for the approach. You can really only rely on them for weather AT the airport.
One of the guys I took with me on that trip, Nick Lopez, is a really good photographer, and he was in the back with all of his camera gear snapping pictures. So I thought I would share those pictures with all of you.