Go or No Go: Northeast freight run

The weather isn’t pretty today, but that’s why you get paid the big bucks as a charter pilot. Your job tonight is to fly from Rockland, ME (KRKD) to Providence, RI (KPVD) to get those packages where they need to be. You’re single pilot as always, but your Piper Navajo is a trusty companion and you have over 1000 hours in it. The equipment is old, but reliable, with a non-WAAS Garmin 430 and a good autopilot. Your yoke-mounted Garmin 696 is a major help in the busy northeast airspace, too. You’re departing in about 30 minutes (about 2300Z), so the second half of the flight will probably be in the dark. The flight is just over an hour down to Providence, and you probably won’t get much higher than 6000 ft. tonight.

It’s time for a weather briefing, then you decide if you would fly the flight or cancel.

Route of flight

Overview

A low pressure system is situated over central New York, with a cold front extending to the south and a weak warm front to the east over Massachusetts. The whole complex is moving slowly northeastward, with a fairly sold line of rain and thunderstorms out front and reduced ceilings and visibility.

Surface analysis chart

The forecast calls for the front to move through overnight, but you usually don’t have the luxury of waiting for perfect weather. Here are the 12 hour and 24 hour prognostic charts:

12 hour prog chart

24 hour prog chart

Radar and Satellite

The radar is where the action is today, as you’re trying to determine what is merely rain and what is a nasty thunderstorm. Right now, it looks like the worst stuff is still to the west:

Northeast radar

The satellite image doesn’t offer much detail today, other than to suggest you’ll be IFR:

Northeast satellite

Icing

This is always a consideration this time of year in the Northeast, and there is definitely some ice out there today. Fortunately, it looks like you’ll be below the bad stuff, at least according to the AIRMET:

The CIP icing product from ADDS confirms that your cruising altitude should be ice-free:

CIP chart

And pilot reports (PIREPs) back both charts up:

Icing Pireps

Convection

Some of that colorful radar picture is just rain, but some of it is definitely convective, so it’s worth reviewing the Convective SIGMETs:

Convective SIGMET

Turbulence

On the other hand, it doesn’t look like there’s any avoiding the turbulence out there:

Low level wind shear is never fun, but there are warnings for it today, as well. Your actual destination, however, is not inside this box:

Finally, an AIRMET for strong surface winds is published:

PIREPs for turbulence are numerous:

Turbulence PIREPs

Text Weather

Ceilings and visibilities are good for your route of flight, but it’s definitely windy out there. Let’s review the METARs and TAFs for your departure, en route and destination:

KRKD 182235Z AUTO 15012G18KT 10SM FEW036 BKN042 OVC050 17/15 A2990
    RMK AO1 P0001=
KRKD 182215Z AUTO 14011G18KT 10SM BKN044 BKN050 BKN060 17/16 A2991
    RMK AO1=
KRKD 182155Z AUTO 14012G17KT 10SM BKN060 17/16 A2992 RMK AO1=
KRKD 182135Z AUTO 15012G19KT 10SM BKN060 17/16 A2993 RMK AO1=
KRKD 182115Z AUTO 14012G20KT 10SM BKN060 18/16 A2993 RMK AO1=
KRKD 182055Z AUTO 14012G15KT 10SM FEW050 18/15 A2994 RMK AO1 57020=

TAF AMD KRKD 182023Z 1820/1918 16014G20KT P6SM OVC035
     FM182100 15016G26KT 4SM -SHRA BR BKN025
     FM190200 15018G34KT 2SM RA BR BKN003
     FM191000 17014G24KT 4SM -SHRA BKN006
     FM191400 30010G18KT P6SM BKN040 AMD LTD TO CLD VIS AND WIND=

RKD 09/004 RKD NAV ILS RWY 13 OM OTS
RKD 09/006 RKD OBST TOWER 835 (341 AGL) 4.27 NNW LGTS OTS (ASR
    1223717) TIL 1209280525
RKD 09/008 RKD NAV NOXKS NDB/ILS RWY 13 LO OTS WEF
    1209191230-1209191800

KPWM 182151Z 15015G23KT 3SM BR BKN028 OVC060 19/17 A2984 RMK AO2 PK
    WND 15027/2104 RAE50 SLP103 P0003 T01890172=
KPWM 182051Z 16014G23KT 3SM -RA BR FEW031 OVC060 18/17 A2986 RMK AO2
    SLP113 P0005 60005 T01830167 58028=

TAF AMD KPWM 182119Z 1821/1918 16015G25KT 5SM -RA BR BKN030
     WS013/18050KT
     FM190300 15018G28KT 3SM SHRA BR OVC004
     FM191000 28012G20KT P6SM BKN040=

KBOS 182154Z 17023G32KT 10SM SCT030 BKN042 OVC055 23/18 A2981 RMK AO2
    PK WND 17032/2151 RAB05E17 SLP094 P0000 T02280178=
KBOS 182054Z 17020G29KT 10SM FEW028 SCT035 OVC065 23/18 A2982 RMK AO2
    PK WND 18029/2052 SLP099 60000 T02280178 58024=

TAF AMD KBOS 182129Z 1821/1924 17020G29KT P6SM SCT025 BKN050
     FM182315 18020G33KT P6SM BKN025
     FM190100 18020G36KT 5SM -RA OVC015
     FM190800 20018G33KT 3SM RA BR OVC008
     FM191000 21015G25KT 3SM -RA BR OVC015
     FM191100 24013G23KT 6SM BR OVC025
     FM191300 27012G20KT P6SM OVC070
     FM191700 31010KT P6SM SCT200=

KPVD 182151Z 17019G31KT 10SM BKN025 BKN034 OVC075 23/19 A2984 RMK AO2
    PK WND 18032/2107 SLP104 CIG 021V030 T02280189=
KPVD 182144Z 18018G25KT 10SM BKN025 BKN033 OVC048 23/19 A2984 RMK AO2
    PK WND 18032/2107 CIG 021V030= (SPECI)
KPVD 182051Z 18017G27KT 9SM FEW028 SCT036 OVC070 23/19 A2984 RMK AO2
    PK WND 19030/2038 SLP105 RAE1952 P0000 60000 T02330194 56024=

TAF AMD KPVD 182137Z 1822/1918 18017G27KT P6SM FEW025 SCT050
     FM182330 18021G36KT 3SM -RA BR OVC020
     FM190100 18023G38KT 3SM -RA BR OVC015
     FM190600 19021G37KT 2SM RA BR OVC008
     FM191000 22015G25KT 4SM BR OVC015
     FM191200 27009KT 3SM BR OVC025
     FM191400 30011KT P6SM OVC080=

PVD 05/015 PVD TWY T RUN UP PAD CLSD
PVD 05/110 PVD NAV ILS RWY 5 MM DCMSN
PVD 05/111 PVD NAV ILS RWY 5 OM DCMSN
PVD 08/119 PVD TWY V CLSD BTN RWY 16/34 AND TWY C 0030-1200 DLY
PVD 08/120 PVD TWY V CNTRLN LGTS OTS NORTH OF TWY C 0030-1200 DLY
PVD 09/083 PVD TWY C CLSD EAST TWY C1
PVD 09/086 PVD NAV ARMIN NDB/ILS RWY 23 LO OTS WEF
    1209191500-1209191900

You Make the Call

There is certainly some nasty weather out there, although the worst seems to be to the west of your route. Are you going or canceling? Add a comment below and tell us why or why not.

17 Comments

  • For a pro this is a go, though I would double check the crosswind landing limitations with that very gusty wind in PVD. It will not be a comfortable ride and the approach/landing will require some serious focus.

  • Having learned to fly from charter pilots who were also CFIs in the early 1970s, they would have likely done this flight with the weather forecasting technology of the day. And with today’s technology, they would definitely make the flight. On the other hand, they might have stayed overnight at KPVD after dropping off the freight.

    Navajos are really good in heavy crosswinds.

  • It’s a go. Forecasted surface winds at KPVD are acceptable for landing on runway 16 with a 20-30 degree x-wind from the right. Not great conditions but the flight can be flown safely.

  • I used to fly scheduled night freight. You are strongly committed to meeting the schedule, no matter what. You check the weather to see what you will have to deal with, not to make a go, no-go decision. You are going, regardless. You will not keep the job long if you cancel for anything other than major maintenance issues. I once had to fly almost 360 degrees around Omaha, Nebraska, before I found an acceptable slot in between two severe thunderstorms. It will make a man – or a woman – out of you.

  • With my current level of proficiency, I’d sit it out. However, if I was at the level of proficiency that flying that much (as listed in the scenario), I’d go.

  • Rough ride but otherwise perfectly acceptable …. going …. just as I did years ago as a pilot flying single-pilot IFR in light twins for Corp. Air Transport (HFD) many moons ago. 🙂

  • I am leaving for providence!! But i am not coming back until frontal passage. in my younger days operation “over kill” would be in effect!!!!

  • As a former night freight pilot in the Piper Navajo I can speak from experience, it is a go. You don’t cancel for weather unless the airport is closed.

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