Ah, the holidays. A fun time for relaxing with family, right?
Maybe, but first you have to get to grandmother’s house for the big turkey dinner. While your wife and kids made the trip two days ago for some extended family bonding, you’re using your airplane to buy you some extra time in the office during this busy time of year. Your plan is to leave the office around lunch today (1700Z) and fly from Erie, PA (KERI) to the suburban Chicago area (KGYY) in time for tonight’s family get-together.
Just by looking out the window, it’s clear that the weather stinks. But your Beech B58 Baron is a capable machine, with known ice protection, two engines, on-board radar and a good autopilot. You also have 2000 hours in this very airplane, so you are quite comfortable flying it for serious transportation–you could say it’s become an extension of your hands. There are no passengers for this two hour flight.
Read the weather briefing below, then decide if you’re going or canceling.
One look at ForeFlight shows you’ll have a lot to deal with today, from rain to low ceilings. Your route takes you from northwestern Pennsylvania, across Ohio and Indiana and into the Chicago area.
The surface analysis shows a well-organized cold front that stretches from Canada all the way down to Texas, cutting your route in half.
The radar picture shows an area of rain across northern Ohio, but it doesn’t appear to be convective.
The satellite picture shows basically unbroken clouds across the entire region, as you would expect with a front like this.
A look at the prognostic charts should give you an idea of the trend, and they show the cold front continuing to move out to the east. Below are the 12 and 24 hour surface prognostic charts.
The low level prog charts show wide areas of marginal VFR (blue) and IFR (red) conditions over the next 12 hours, but moving out of the area on the 24 hour chart.
This is one of the biggest concerns today–anytime a cold front marches across the Great Lakes in winter, in-flight icing is a serious consideration. You start with a look at the AIRMETs for icing, which are scattered all over your route today, going up to 18,000 ft.
Next you look at the CIP icing product at aviationweather.gov. Since you’re flexible on your cruising altitude, you look at altitudes from 3,000 up to 9,000 ft.
That’s a look at the forecast icing conditions; now it’s time to review the actual conditions, with a look at PIREPs for icing.
Finally, it’s worth a quick check of the freezing levels, since lower may keep you above freezing for at least part of the trip.
Besides ice, fronts often bring disturbed air and turbulence, so you look at the AIRMETs for turbulence. Fortunately, they show only high level turbulence along your route.
A look at the PIREPs for turbulence generally supports the notion that most of the bumps are up high today.
Ceiling and Visibility
The other concern today is the widespread area of low ceilings and reduced visibility. A look at the Ceiling/Vis map shows the situation.
Your departure airport is right at minimums (300 and 1/2 mile), so you could get back in if something went wrong after takeoff, but it would be tight.
KERI 221620Z 25008KT 3/4SM R06/4000V6000FT BR OVC003 09/08 A3011 RMK AO2= (SPECI) KERI 221551Z 22009KT 1SM R06/6000VP6000FT BR OVC003 09/08 A3012 RMK AO2 SLP202 T00890078= KERI 221451Z 23006KT 1 1/2SM BR OVC003 09/08 A3012 RMK AO2 SLP203 60001 T00890078 58003=
The forecast calls for conditions to improve over time, so at least the trend is on your side.
TAF KERI 221139Z 2212/2312 22006KT 6SM -DZ BR OVC006 TEMPO 2212/2216 4SM -DZ BR FM221900 30010KT 5SM -SHRA OVC008 FM222200 31012G22KT 6SM -SHRA OVC010 FM230100 32012G20KT P6SM OVC025 FM230400 32012KT P6SM BKN035=
You check a couple of en route airports to get a sense of the weather, too. Toledo, Ohio shows IFR conditions, but not quite as bad as Erie.
KTOL 221552Z 30008KT 4SM BR BKN007 OVC016 08/06 A3019 RMK AO2 RAE23 SLP229 P0001 T00780061= KTOL 221544Z 29009KT 3SM BR BKN007 OVC012 08/07 A3019 RMK AO2 RAE23 P0001= (SPECI) KTOL 221536Z 28010KT 1 3/4SM BR BKN007 OVC012 08/07 A3019 RMK AO2 RAE23 P0001= (SPECI) KTOL 221452Z 27007KT 3SM -RA BR BKN007 BKN011 OVC055 08/07 A3018 RMK AO2 RAB1356 SLP225 P0001 60001 T00780072 53011= TAF AMD KTOL 221209Z 2212/2312 28008KT P6SM OVC008 TEMPO 2212/2214 5SM -DZ BR FM221400 31010KT 4SM -SHRA BR OVC006 TEMPO 2214/2217 2SM -SHRA FM221800 32012G22KT 6SM -SHRA OVC012 FM222200 32010KT P6SM OVC025 FM230100 32008KT P6SM BKN200=
By South Bend, Indiana, visibility is much better and the ceilings lift a little.
KSBN 221554Z 34019G28KT 10SM OVC012 04/02 A3031 RMK AO2 PK WND 34028/1549 RAB40E51 SLP271 P0000 T00440017= KSBN 221454Z 34014G22KT 10SM OVC010 05/02 A3029 RMK AO2 CIG 009V014 SLP262 60000 T00500022 53024= TAF AMD KSBN 221516Z 2215/2312 34014G23KT P6SM OVC015 FM222100 34008KT P6SM SCT020 BKN250 FM231100 31012KT P6SM BKN015=
At your destination, it’s easy IFR, but the wind promises a fun ride down final approach. Fortunately, the preferred runway at Gary is 30, so the crosswind isn’t as bad as it could be at some airports in the Chicago area.
KGYY 221445Z 34018G30KT 10SM OVC015 04/01 A3036= TAF AMD KGYY 221606Z 2216/2312 34017G30KT P6SM OVC016 FM222100 34013G19KT P6SM SCT020 SCT250 FM230100 31008KT P6SM SCT250 FM231100 32013G21KT P6SM SCT020=
The wind is blowing, the ceilings are low and there could be ice at altitude–hardly a walk in the park. But you’re an experienced and proficient instrument pilot flying a very capable airplane between familiar destinations. And you’d really like to have turkey with your kids tonight, without having to endure United.
You have your iPad in your hand: are you filing a flight plan or buying an airline ticket?