Clouds are closer than you think

In the morning we flew from Rockhampton to Bundaberg, with a refueling stop at Gladstone.  While on the ground at Gladstone we approached the pilot of the regularly scheduled airplane, asking about the weather ahead.

The pilot wasn’t helpful.  He said that it was about the same as usual.  Yes, there were showers in the area.  He was a bit surly.  He seemed to think that we had no business in ‘his’ sky.   Most Australian commercial pilots showed the same attitude toward private pilots.

As a result, I decided that we would fly to Bundaberg, spend a night there, and fly back to Bankstown airport (in Sydney) by a more direct, inland route.

On the way from Bundaberg to Bankstown I flew over some stratus (low, flat) clouds below us.  In seconds, I was well past the beginning of the cloud mass.  In discussing the situation with the flight instructor, he advised against dropping down through the cloud bank; too dangerous.

While above the clouds I was violating a DCA rule:  I did not have visual reference with he ground (although the cloud was beneath us; we were in bright sunlight).

Maybe I should have turned around and flown back to the edge of the cloud bank, descended under the cloud, and continued on my way.

Dithering about it, I kept going until we flew over some plowed fields, which had dissipated the cloud bank.

I mention it now, but remained  completely quiet about as long as we remained in Australia.

We had one more experience of interest (i.e. danger) as we approached Sydney.

The flight instructor said, “We’re getting pretty close to those clouds ahead.”

I immediately executed a 180-degree steep turn.

As we turned, we flew into thick cloud.  All visibility was gone.

I dropped my eyes to our altimeter and turn-and-balance indicator.  I didn’t move the yoke and pedals.

As quickly as we entered the cloud, we were out.

Then, we were into another cloud, and out again.

With the airplane now heading north, I leveled out and held course until we were well away from the cloud.

Then I turned west, toward the flight corridor for Bankstown.

My landing at Bankstown airport was smooth and uneventful.

Back at the Aero Club shack, the chief instructor commented, “Two incident reports.  Well, that’s not bad for your first flight inland.”

Could they have been making bets on whether I’d come back at all?

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