March 25, 2013
While flying part-time for an air taxi in Southeast Alaska I was asked by the owner to transport his daughter and daughter-in-law to a strip about 40 miles down the coast. The weather was pretty typical, low clouds, rain and fog, bringing the visibility to less than a mile. I kept an eye on the visibility after it came up to at least a mile, making special VFR possible. I wanted to be able to see the tops of the trees to the South so I could use runway 20, pop over the trees to the beach and use the ocean breakers as a centerline, avoiding the opposite direction traffic. Nobody was flying so Pireps were not available. Once I saw the treetops, I loaded my passengers into the Cessna 185, departing via the planned route. This was a very typical situation for this area. Well, I got to the second river outlet along the beach and encountered lowering visibilities, bottoming-out at about 1/16 mile.
We were very close to the water at this point, breakers barely visible, traveling with a notch of flaps and wondering if the local DC-3 was coming from the opposite direction. It stayed this way for about 15 miles, with the visibility improving to about 1 mile as we approached our destination. After we landed I passed a Pirep to the FSS, stayed there for about 4 hours, ensuring that the weather improved before heading back. I beat myself up pretty badly for putting two very precious people at risk with my poor judgment.
The Santa Paula, California, airport evokes an old-time airfield, complete with antique airplanes dating back almost a century. Consider visiting the field when you attend the AOPA Fly-In at Chino, California, on Sept. 20.
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