One important accomplishment is that the airport recently installed an automated weather observing system (AWOS-3) that can be accessed on the airport's common traffic advisory frequency. So it is likely the pilot I heard who was inbound for landing at Little River had received the "one minute weather" from the AWOS. Either that or he couldn't see the airport because he asked Oakland Center for a contact approach, which indicated to me that the aircraft was operating under instrument flight rules (IFR).
To my surprise, the center controller approved his request, terminated radar service, cleared him to the airport's advisory frequency, and asked him to cancel on the center frequency or on the ground with flight service. Here's an excerpt from the Low Altitude En Route chart that shows Little River. Note that the airport symbol (which I've circled in red) is rendered in brown ink, meaning the airport has no instrument approach procedures.
To readers who are not familiar the term "contact approach," it is procedure conducted under instrument flight rules that allows a pilot to proceed with visual references to an airport. In the U.S., the pilot must be operating clear of clouds, have at least 1 mile flight visibility, and must reasonably expect to be able to continue to the destination airport in these conditions. Like a Special VFR clearance, a controller cannot offer a contact approach, the pilot must request it.
I was startled that the Oakland Center controller approved the pilot's request for a contact approach because, to my knowledge, the airport has no instrument approaches available. Section 5-4-24(c) of the Aeronautical Information Manual is very clear about this, so I'll just quote it (emphasis mine):
A contact approach is an approach procedure that may be used by a pilot (with prior authorization from ATC) in lieu of conducting a standard or special IAP to an airport. It is not intended for use by a pilot on an IFR flight clearance to operate to an airport not having a published and functioning IAP. Nor is it intended for an aircraft to conduct an instrument approach to one airport and then, when "in the clear," discontinue that approach and proceed to another airport. In the execution of a contact approach, the pilot assumes the responsibility for obstruction clearance. If radar service is being received, it will automatically terminate when the pilot is instructed to change to advisory frequency.So either there's a special instrument approach procedure into Little River of which I'm unaware or the controller should not have approved the pilot's request for a contact approach.
The airspace around Little River is Class G (uncontrolled airspace) up to 1200 feet AGL (above ground level). Above 1200 feet is Class E (controlled airspace). I've heard many a hair-raising tale about pilots scud running their way into Little River and it always seems the pilot involved was heavily under the influence of "getthereitus." If you can stay clear of the clouds at or below 1200 feet AGL and you have 1 mile visibility, you're legal to try to fly VFR into Little River. But just because it's legal doesn't mean it's a smart thing to do.
As to why an FAA air traffic controller would clear someone for a contact approach into an airport that doesn't have an instrument approach procedure, well I'm still trying to figure out that one. Perhaps it is due to the influx of so many newly hired controllers or some other factor of which I am not aware ...