Re: Some FAA flexibility ?
I took a late flight back from a overseas holiday into atrocious weather in the UK, the flight was delayed, the baggage was delayed, had to deal with a car completely iced up in the car park, and then very tiring drive back home in the early hours. I was supposed to be flying first thing the next day, but all weather reports indicated it would be cancelled, so rocked up to the briefing confident I would be heading straight back home to catch up on sleep - except there was a break in the weather and we had a go.
It only stayed clear for an hour before a wall of snow just before Coventry hsalted our progress, but unfortunately my super keen number 2 on nav/comms quickly re-planned a route to the west around Birmingham. That went fine until we found ourselves trapped on all sides by low level snowfall and impenetrable icing conditions for the type I was flying. Spent an hour trapped in that small bubble of clear conditions, the only field inside was Derby which was closed for tree cutting. While circling aimlessly ATC were asking if we were still in contact with the ground (i.e. still in visible flying conditions) and offering a radar vector to East Midlands which we couldn't take.
Eventually we spotted a clearing along the M1 and made a dash for it, hung a left in to Sheffield (days before it closed for good) only to meet with horrendous wind-sheer when we got down to the height of the buildings alongside the runway. As I aborted and did a go around, I was the most frightened I'd ever been in the air, as I knew I was far too tired to be doing this, and was imagining the text of the fatal accident report that would be my epitaph. By some miracle on the next attempt the wind dropped, and I got her down. I was never more glad to be on the ground, and did actually kiss the tarmac.
After a dropping off the freeloader in the rear who had no headset and was oblivious to all the dramas of the flight, had a couple of hours stop over, before the trip back where I swapped roles and handled nav and comms on the way back. Despite ominous looking conditions it was mainly clear except one more wall of black snow cloud somewhere in Shropshire, but a second miracle resulted in a 500ft high archway of light snow opening up just in front of us, it was only about a mile long with clear conditions on the other side, so we dived through only gathering a dusting of ice, and made it back for an uneventful landing, followed by a debrief which left out quite a few of the hairier details until a long time later.
I wasn't bound by any commuting hours limits on that flight, it was my purely my own stupidity which could have resulted in 3 lives lost, so I'm glad there are inflexible rules to prevent commercial pilots flying when tired where hundreds of lives are at stake. You never know when you are going to meet conditions which are going to push you right to your limits, and you don't want those limits reduced by fatigue.