I was at an uncontrolled airport the other day conducting an IFR cross country training flight. We had arrived at this airport less than an hour prior and since I have watched 3 airplanes land. 2 I listened arrive to the airport over the CTAF making traffic calls from their respective cardinal directions. At no point did I get the feeling they were inbound on the single instrument approach serving the airport. I felt very strongly they were VFR in what I considered to be barely VFR in the class Golf airspace that served the airport.
I thought about it for a few minutes, and resolved that VFR could be accomplished as long as the aircraft were clear of the clouds. Could.
Fast forward to now. I’m in my airplane again, aircraft fueled with low lead, me fueled with turkey and cheese. Next to my airplane on the ramp is an empty 172. While conducting our pre taxi briefs and checklists two men board the 172 and begin to taxi. I didn’t hear a taxi call. I didn’t hear a call for IFR clearance on the RCO frequency for the closest approach facility. About 5 minutes later I hear them call CTAF with “departing runway XX south”.
Current conditions are VV001 and 1SM or less. I’m estimating these because ASOS was OTS, however the closest airport was reporting similar conditions. Sitting in my aircraft on the ramp, I was unable to see completely across the airfield. After departing we were IMC by 150 feet and breaking through the top at almost 700 feet.
Checking in with departure and no 172 on frequency there.
I haven’t stopped thinking about this since it happened. What possesses people to do such stupid things? Why were airplanes using this uncontrolled field for VFR flight operations in such poor visibility? Not just one, but multiple aircraft had come and gone during conditions that I barely feel comfortable departing IFR in while in a single engine piston aircraft.
Cloud clearance requirements are there for a reason. Maneuvering low level in low visibility isn’t smart. Spatial disorientation is real and it will kill you. Being conservative isn’t just for politicians. Statistics aren’t just numbers, they’re people that are no longer alive because of being unable to make good judgement calls, or not being able to identify and stop the error chain.
Stay safe people.