The student pilot departed Coldstream on a navigation training flight to Hamilton, Victoria and return. The pilot reported that a stronger than forecast headwind was experienced, which resulted in the aircraft’s ground speed being about 20 kt slower than planned and a subsequent increase in flight time. When approaching the Mount William and Serra Ranges, the pilot observed low cloud ahead, and experienced rain showers and moderate turbulence. The pilot diverted 45° to the left.
Shortly after, the pilot was confronted with a ‘wall of cloud’. The pilot determined that he would not be able to land at Hamilton and commenced tracking for Colac. Shortly after, he received a call on the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) from persons on the ground at Hamilton aerodrome. The pilot informed them that he was diverting to Colac.
The ground personnel advised the pilot that the weather had improved and suggested that he could fly to the south of the Ranges and then track west to the aerodrome. The pilot turned the aircraft around and commenced tracking towards the Ranges. Soon after, the pilot realised that the conditions had not improved and he conducted a precautionary search and landing onto a road.
This incident highlights need for pilots to continually assess the weather enroute and lookout for deteriorating conditions behind, around, and ahead of you. Make decisions early and when in doubt, turn about. In addition, it is important to be aware that the presence of others may influence your decision-making process. Pilots must know, and fly within their own personal limitations on that particular occasion.