Go or no go: how strong is the front?

A weekend flying trip is on the calendar today, as you’re scheduled to attend a family reunion in Springfield, MO. Your flight will depart from Olive Branch Airport (OLV), just outside of Memphis, TN and arrive at the Springfield Branson Airport (SGF). The airplane for the 221 nm trip is your pride and joy–a nicely-equipped Cessna T210 with dual WAAS GPSs, multi-function display and XM Weather. There is no ice protection. You have a commercial certificate with an instrument rating, and are proficient in the airplane, having flown it 150 hours in the last 12 months.

Your proposed departure time is 1630Z. It’s time to make the go/no go call.

Current conditions

There is a cold front stretching right across your route of flight, through southeastern Missouri and Arkansas. Earlier in the week, this front was forecast to develop into a serious line of thunderstorms, but that may be breaking up a little. Here’s what the surface weather depiction looks like:

US Surface analysis

 

The radar and satellite picture show that there is definitely solid cloud cover and some precipitation, but it’s not a solid line:

Regional radar

 

Arkansas satellite

There are the usual AIRMETs out for possible icing in the clouds, although the freezing level is fairly high, so the AIRMET starts at 10,000 ft. While you probably can’t go high today, a cruising altitude of 6-8,000 appears to be out of any ice:

AIRMET for icing

The AIRMET for turbulence shows the possibility of some bumps for the second half of your flight, as the winds are stronger to the north:

AIRMET for turbulence

There are no Pilot Reports (PIREPs) in the area for either icing of turbulence.

Checking METAR reports along your route, you find both VFR and IFR conditions, with increasing wind as you get closer to your destination:

KMEM 201554Z 24008KT 10SM SCT060 BKN250 23/14 A2986 RMK AO2 SLP107
    T02330139 $=
KMEM 201454Z 20010KT 10SM BKN250 22/13 A2986 RMK AO2 SLP108 T02220133
    50003 $=
KJBR 201553Z AUTO 29008KT 10SM SCT070 BKN090 20/12 A2984 RMK AO2
    SLP102 T02000117=
KJBR 201453Z AUTO 24010KT 10SM OVC070 18/11 A2983 RMK AO2 SLP100
    T01830111 53003=
KBVX 201615Z AUTO 31003KT 10SM BKN110 17/14 A2986 RMK AO1=
KBVX 201555Z AUTO 30005KT 10SM SCT110 17/13 A2986 RMK AO1=
KBVX 201535Z AUTO 29004KT 10SM CLR 17/14 A2984 RMK AO1=
KBBG 201555Z 33013G20KT 3SM BR OVC005 08/08 A2995=
KBBG 201445Z 33014G18KT 3SM -RA BR OVC005 09/09 A2991=
KSGF 201552Z 35011G18KT 10SM OVC015 09/06 A2996 RMK AO2 SLP143
    T00890056=
KSGF 201452Z 35015G20KT 10SM OVC011 08/06 A2994 RMK AO2 SLP136
    T00780056 51025=

Forecasts

The prog charts show the cold front continuing to move eastward, with the associated rain and clouds. The 12-hour chart, valid for just a few hours after your proposed departure, looks like this:

12 hour prog chart

The 24-hour prog chart is valid for 10-hours after your proposed departure:

24 hour prog chart

The Area Forecast (FA) gives some more details, and generally calls for layered clouds, so there may some VMC conditions along your route:

NERN TX...UPDT
BKN070 LYRD FL250. SCT -SHRA/WDLY SCT TSRA. CB TOP FL380. TS POSS
SEV. BECMG 1417 BKN030. WDLY SCT -SHRA/-TSRA. OTLK...MVFR CIG
SHRA BECMG 0002 VFR.
AR
NW...BKN050 LYRD FL250. SCT -SHRA/WDLY SCT TSRA. CB TOP FL380.
BECMG 1114 BKN030. TIL 16Z ISOL -SHRA. 22Z BKN060. OTLK...VFR.
SW-E HLF...BKN CI. BECMG 1619 BKN030 LYRD FL250. SCT -SHRA/WDLY
SCT -TSRA. CB TOP FL380. OTLK...MVFR CIG SHRA TSRA AFT 02Z MVFR
CIG.
TN
W...SKC. 13Z BKN CI. BECMG 1720 BKN040 LYRD FL250. SCT -SHRA/ISOL
-TSRA. CB TOP FL380. OTLK...VFR SHRA AFT 00Z MVFR CIG SHRA.
MID...SCT030. OCNL VIS 3-5SM BR. 16Z SCT CI. OTLK...VFR AFT 02Z
MVFR CIG SHRA.
E...BKN030 TOP 040. OCNL VIS 3-5SM BR. BECMG 1417 SCT060.
OTLK...VFR AFT 23Z VFR SHRA.
MO
NW...BKN030 LYRD FL250. WND N G25KT. BECMG 1518 BKN050. WND N
G25KT. 21Z BKN050. OTLK...VFR.
NERN...BKN030 LYRD FL250. OCNL VIS 5SM BR. ISOL -SHRA/-TSRA. CB
TOP FL360. BECMG 1821 BKN050. OTLK...VFR.
SW...BKN030 LYRD FL250. SCT -SHRA/ISOL -TSRA. CB TOP FL380. 14Z
ISOL -SHRA. 22Z BKN060. OTLK...VFR.
SE...BKN100 LYRD FL250. BECMG 1316 BKN050. ISOL -SHRA. BECMG 1720
SCT -SHRA/ISOL -TSRA. CB TOP FL380. OTLK...VFR SHRA AFT 01Z MVFR
CIG.

The terminal forecasts show showers and some wind, although generally VFR conditions, for the first half of your flight. The second half shows lowering IFR conditions, but still well above approach minimums:

TAF AMD KMEM 201458Z 2015/2112 22010KT P6SM FEW050 BKN250
     FM201900 29012KT P6SM -SHRA VCTS OVC040CB
     FM202100 32012KT P6SM -RA FEW025 OVC035
     FM210100 36014G23KT 6SM -RA OVC015 TEMPO 2101/2104 4SM RA BR
     FM210700 36011G20KT P6SM OVC015=
TAF KJBR 201121Z 2012/2112 22005KT P6SM SCT250
     FM201400 24008KT P6SM FEW050 OVC250
     FM201800 30010KT P6SM -SHRA OVC035
     FM202000 33013G20KT P6SM -RA SCT015 OVC025 TEMPO 2021/2101
     4SM RA BR OVC015
     FM210300 01012G24KT P6SM OVC030=
TAF AMD KBBG 201504Z 2015/2112 33010G18KT 3SM BR VCSH OVC005
     FM201800 34008KT P6SM OVC010
     FM202100 34009KT P6SM BKN025
     FM210100 33005KT P6SM FEW030=
TAF AMD KSGF 201502Z 2015/2112 35010G20KT P6SM OVC011
     FM201800 34012KT P6SM OVC012
     FM202100 35012KT P6SM BKN025
     FM202300 36006KT P6SM FEW030=

So is this front just a weak line of showers with layered clouds, or a strengthening system that could create serious thunderstorms? Your 210 is fueled up and ready to go–do you make the flight?

TAGS: ,

18 Comments

  1. Ed says:

    This one is a no-brainer. I’d just leave a few hours early. If the thunderstorms start to build, I’d just land short, let the storms pass, and continue to the destination.

    • chris filiano says:

      i would not fly an airplane during thunderstorms,especially if they are producing damaging winds,large hail,or tornadoes.

  2. Larry Baum says:

    Got to agree with Ed. The airplane is well equipped and has onboard weather. This also assumes that the pilot is suitably IFR proficient to match his overall proficiency in the airplane.

    There are plenty of airports with decent IFR approaches along the way. If the front starts to dissipate, he can keep going. If it front builds or if the ceilings and visibilities behind the front drop to lower than forecast, land and wait out the weather. Starting early on this one will also gives more options including turning back if things aren’t working as planned.

  3. Mike Friedman says:

    I have to agree as well. I was reading this one and didn’t see the issue. The band of weather is relatively narrow, you have enough fuel to have plenty of options, and returning to the point of departure is available without weather issues. I would definately launch. Even if I couldn’t leave earlier, unless the line of storms was in rapid development at the moment of departure, I wouldn’t think twice about launching and taking a look.

  4. Roger Levy says:

    I agree with the first three comments, but I’d add that going later is an option too. Let the front pass. I wouldn’t put too much stock in the on-board XM. It’s nice to have, but we all know what they say about using it in the air for tactical decisions – don’t.

  5. Bob Shlafer says:

    Go

  6. Ron says:

    Go , but like President Reagan said , “trust, but verify” . Keep a close eye on the radar and stormscope.

  7. JJ Sifo says:

    I would probably drive,or wait,,,a front is a front all of them unpredictable and potentially dangerous. JJ

  8. Ryan Giacomino says:

    I’d go.

    No, wait – did you say this was for a family reunion? ;)

  9. Dennis says:

    yeah, no brainier, go

  10. Harry says:

    I might go and have a look at it, but penetrating a line of wx, if in IMC, with only XM NEXRAD radar in a SE airplane is something beyond my level of risk. Earlier departure would work, however.

  11. Peter says:

    I say it’s a go. But, you always have the 180 degree option. Be aware, be on your toes and stay flexible.

  12. Shawn says:

    Wheels up… Going to see Uncle Fester.

  13. Warren says:

    I would definitely try it, flying a Cherokee-6 with Nexrad and WAAS. Ice is not a problem. Thunderstorms can be easily avoided or, if necessary, run away from. I don’t consider this a go-no go decision. Its a go-continue decision.

    Always, you’ve got to be willng to run away and land someplace safe.

  14. Vicki b. says:

    An event I have to get to, a front that has hints of ts along the southern edge, and building tops. I would wait till it passes, then go. (no guarantees about icing near ts)

  15. JR says:

    I would go and would go earlier if I could. Fully committed to coming back if weather is not within tolerance. Alternatively, could wait till next day as the weather is likely to pass.

  16. SBarnett says:

    No way. Not worth the risk.

x
Sign up for our Newsletter

Enter your email address below: