I did another quick flight to Willows for my thunderhill track day. Unfortunately, that morning was going to be IFR due to a solid overcast, which for an otherwise 50mn VFR flight added quite a bit of overhead. I could have flown the previous evening, but had already made arrangements otherwise. I also reasoned that there was no point for me to be IFR rated if I went out of my way to avoid even the softest IFR.
So there it went, I filed for willows, showed up at Palo Alto around 06:20 and had the plane ready by 06:40. When I taxied to the rununp area, I heard the tower folks on CTAF who nicely gave me a weather update even though the tower would be closed until 07:00.|
I asked them if they would mind getting my IFR clearance, and they nicely agreed. When I was all done with my flight plan, it was 06:58, 2 minutes before the tower would officially open, so I just called CTAF to announce my takeoff and took off in the 600ft overcast. When I switched to norcal on 121.3, which is typically what I'd do after Palo Alto tower handed me over to them, norcal asked me "are you VFR or IFR?". I misunderstood that as whether I was on an VFR or IFR flight plan, not visual vs instrument actual conditions, so I said "IFR" for "IFR flight plan", except that this is right about when I entered the clouds.
Now, hopefully most IFR pilots would have figured out by then that I was supposed to be in contact with norcal before entering IFR for them to be ready for me, even if they knew I was about to enter the system since I had gotten my IFR clearance (but not release) from them. I could have gotten it in the air although staying VFR in the meantime would have been tough, or better, gotten it on the ground as a takeoff clearance, which is what I would have gotten if the tower had been opened. That said, I hadn't talked to the not yet open tower at all, I would have called norcal from the ground and gotten my clearance and release directly from them. This goes to show that you have to be careful when you get outside of the workflow you're used to.
Unfortunately, it's the mix of the two that caused my confusion, for a situation that I did learn 3 years ago, but never had to use. Thankfully there were no consequences and the norcal controller just gave me a friendly notice about my mistake in the procedure.
The flight to Willows was otherwise uneventful outside of a nordo cropduster that crossed my path on final probably just 30 feet over the ground (a fair distance from me), and the return flight was nice and brief thanks to a nice tailwind.
Fremont and Sunol
Mt Diablo in the background
Silicon Valley in the morning
Cropduster by Willows
San Francisco half fogged up
Southwest Landing at Oakland
Oakland Runway 29
Fedex landing at Oakland
The new paint job for the blimp for hire at Moffett