Features

July 2008 Issue

Flying Below Minimum Altitudes

The FARs allow Part 91 operators to shoot approaches when the weather is below minimums. But that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

It’s nearing dusk as two Piper Senecas descend toward Highfuelprices Regional Airport on vectors for the VOR approach. Published minimums are 500 and 1. The airport has weather reporting and forecasting, the airplanes have the same avionics. Seneca A is being flown by a pilot with commercial, instrument and multi-engine ratings and a current Part 135 approval; the flight is being operated under Part 135 as there is a five-pound box of urgent documents under the cargo net behind the rear seats. Meanwhile, Seneca B is being flown by a pilot with commercial, instrument and multi-engine ratings, a 23-month-old flight review and some question as to whether he is instrument-current. It is a Part 91 flight. There are four passengers on board who are splitting the cost of the flight with the pilot. Before they reach the final approach fix, the controller advises both aircraft that the airport weather is now 400 overcast and ¾ mile visibility in rain and mist. Seneca A pilot advises the controller she cannot continue the approach and that she’d like to climb 1000 feet or so and hold at the FAF while she decides whether to go to her alternate or wait for the weather to improve. The pilot of Seneca B hears the weather report and continues with the approach because he wants to take a look.

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