I was hoping to get my first taste of night flying this evening. We were planning to stay in the traffic pattern where I would attempt to bang out at least 8 of the 10 night takeoffs/landings required by the FAA in 14 CFR §61.109(a)(2)(ii) to avoid any night restrictions on my pilot certificate. Though the forecast was marginal with rain, all I needed was an hour and a half of VFR legal weather.
Earlier, the Dulles TAF predicted a broken ceiling of about 5000 feet--good enough to fly the pattern with some margin--but that was later revised to 1800 feet broken. My CFI called me a little before 5pm and mentioned that that the ceiling could drop below 1000 feet in short order. Here we are, about an hour and a half after official sunset and the latest observations bear that out:
KHEF 300035Z AUTO 00000KT 10SM OVC010 16/15 A2992 RMK AO1
KHWY 300021Z AUTO 02004KT 7SM OVC010 16/15 A2990 RMK AO2
KCJR 300020Z AUTO 35003KT 5SM -RA OVC012 16/14 A2992 RMK AO2
KRMN 300020Z AUTO 00000KT 4SM RA OVC006 17/17 A2995 RMK AO2
For those who don't speak METAR, that is an overcast cloud layer at 1000 feet above the ground at Manassas. Twenty minutes ago, it was at 1500 feet. The ceiling at airports in the vicinity are about the same or worse. At best, I would have had to cut this flight short, because I could not fly at the traffic pattern altitude of 1000 feet above ground (AGL) while keeping a minimum of 500 feet below the clouds.
I watched the weather all day today. Flying is compelling me to observe, appreciate, and respect the weather. I am half way through Weather Flying by Robert Buck. Highly recommended.
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