reply to post by ColoradoJens
Palo Alto Airport is one of many, many in the U.S. that does not have regularly scheduled passenger service.
The pilot of the Cessna 310 was likely (this can be researched) using an IFR flight plan for the departure, which he can then cancel and continue VFR
if weather conditions are appropriate. Years ago we used to call this an "IFR to VFR on top" clearance, on top being above the low-lying clouds
that form the fog. Rather than filing a full flight plan to destination, this sort of clearance had a "clearance limit" that was a Navaid (VOR) or
an intersection...essentially a constructed waypoint.
A wise rule-of-thumb for a Private pilot, though is similar to what's required for passenger operations when departing an airport with visibility
that is below the instrument approach minima for a return --- have an alternate in mind, with sufficient visibility minimums. A "Take-Off
Alternate". For contingencies that require an immediate landing, such as an engine failure (Cessna 310 is a light-twin airplane).
Technically, although usually not enforced, it is a violation of FARs, what that pilot did:
(1) Unless otherwise authorized by the FAA, no pilot may takeoff from a civil airport under IFR unless the weather conditions at time of takeoff
are at or above the weather minimums for IFR takeoff prescribed for that airport under part 97 of this chapter.
(2) If takeoff weather minimums are not prescribed under part 97 of this chapter for a particular airport, the following weather minimums apply to
takeoffs under IFR:
(i) For aircraft, other than helicopters, having two engines or less--1 statute mile visibility.....
Here is the FAA published departure procedure for Palo Alto, in low visibility:
PALO ALTO, CA
PALO ALTO AIRPORT OF
SANTA CLARA COUNTY
DEPARTURE PROCEDURE: Rwy 13, turn left.
Rwy 31, turn right. All aircraft climb direct SJC VOR/DME
before proceeding on course.
Official FAA-published Airport Diagram:
You can see more info at skyvector.com...
The airport ICAO code is 'KPAO'.
The VFR TAC chart for the SFO area shows an obstruction ("trans twrs") at 377 feet MSL, just north and west of the airport.
Do we know which runway he used? And if the Tower was open (it is not open 24 hours).
PALO ALTO GROUND: 125.0 [0700-2100]
PALO ALTO TOWER: 118.6 [0700-2100]
(Accident was at 0743, IIRC? SO, Tower was open)?
It is ultimately the Pilot in Command's responsibility to be familiar with any obstructions in the vicinity, and plan accordingly.
Humans fail, however (tragically) all too often in matters of aviation and flying......