Flying

WHEN THE MUSIC DIES

Three men chartered a Beechcraft Bonanza for a late-night flight between Mason City (KMCW), Iowa, and Fargo (KFAR), North Dakota, about 200 nautical miles. The 21-year-old charter pilot’s initial review of the forecast that chilly February evening called for VFR weather with bases along the route at 5,000 feet and visibility of 10 miles. The only possible snafu was near Fargo, where a chance of snow showers existed around their original arrival time of 1 a.m., with a cold-front passage due a few hours later.

Just before their original departure time from KMCW, according to the Civil Aeronautics Board report, the pilot checked the weather and learned the ceilings had dropped to 4,200 feet en route, but visibilities were still good. Light snow was reported in Minneapolis, however, some 100 nm southeast of Fargo. The weather briefer also told the pilot that the cold front was moving faster than expected and would pass through Fargo about 2 a.m. local time.

As often happens, the passengers arrived at the Mason City airport late. To save time, the pilot decided to file his VFR flight plan once he was airborne. As the Bonanza departed, just before 1 a.m., the Mason City weather had deteriorated to an obscured ceiling at 3,000 feet and a visibility of 6 miles in light snow. Winds from the south had picked up to 20 knots, with gusts to 30 knots. The VFR-rated pilot pressed on despite the

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