Go or no go: down the front

Manchester, NH (MHT) to Pittsburgh, PA (AGC) is the goal today so you can deliver your Piper Lance to the avionics shop for a new panel. The trip has been on the calendar for weeks and you’re excited to see a glass panel go in your airplane, but Mother Nature isn’t going to make it easy on you.

A large area of rain has parked over the northeastern US, so it looks like you’ll be exercising that instrument rating. Fortunately your autopilot is in great shape and you sprung for that Garmin 430W last fall. It should come in handy for the proposed 411nm trip.

Go or no go? Let’s look at the weather.

The overall weather picture shows a low pressure system to the west, with a cold front stretching down into Texas. A large area of rain is out in front of the system:

US Surface Analysis, 5/8/12

The prog charts show the front slowly moving east through your route:

US 12 hour prog chart

US 24 hour prog chart

Satellite and radar pictures show a large area of rain and clouds, but so far there don’t appear to be many thunderstorms in the line:

US radar map

Satellite image

Even in late Spring, icing is still a consideration, so it’s worth checking the PIREPs, AIRMETs and the Current Icing Potential (CIP) map. The good news is that icing looks like it won’t be a factor, at least below 10,000 ft.

Icing AIRMETs

Icing PIREPs NE

CIP chart

How about convection? It’s obviously a possibility today, but the radar doesn’t indicate much, at least until you get closer to your destination. There are no Convective SIGMETs in your area, just an outlook:

Convective SIGMETs

That suggests something might be brewing, so you check the Collaborative Convective Forecast Product (CCFP), a slightly longer range forecast. It shows nothing for your flight:

CCFP forecast map

One last map to check–how’s the ride going to be? Any turbulence in the clouds? So far, there aren’t any PIREPs for turbulence, unless you’re up in the flight levels:

PIREP turbulence

The text weather tells a more detailed story today. Your departure airport isn’t that bad yet, with some light rain falling but high cloud bases:

KMHT 081453Z 16007KT 7SM -RA OVC065 11/09 A3004 RMK AO2 SLP184 P0004
    60009 T01060089 58008=
KMHT 081435Z 15007KT 5SM -RA BR FEW008 OVC065 11/09 A3004 RMK AO2
    P0003= (SPECI)
KMHT 081353Z 15006KT 9SM -RA OVC065 10/08 A3004 RMK AO2 SLP187 P0002
    T01000083=
TAF AMD KMHT 081434Z 0815/0912 15006KT P6SM -RA OVC070
     FM081600 15009KT 6SM -SHRA OVC060
     FM082100 18009KT 5SM -SHRA BR OVC035
     FM082300 16008KT 3SM -SHRA BR OVC025=

Weather along your route of flight is progressively getting lower, although it’s still above minimums in most places:

KBDL 081451Z 17011G17KT 10SM OVC060 14/07 A3000 RMK AO2 SLP158 60000
    T01390067 56018=
KAVP 081454Z 21004KT 5SM -RA BR OVC016 13/12 A2988 RMK AO2 SLP111
    P0003 60008 T01330117 55007=
KIPT 081502Z 35005KT 2 1/2SM RA BR OVC013 13/12 A2985 RMK AO2 P0001=
    (SPECI)
KJST 081500Z AUTO 18008KT 3SM RA BR SCT005 BKN016 OVC021 14/14 A2983
    RMK AO2 P0001= (SPECI)

Your destination has light rain and layered clouds, but is comfortably above minimums for either of the two ILS approaches:

KAGC 081453Z AUTO 22007KT 5SM -RA BR SCT007 BKN012 OVC023 18/16 A2980
    RMK AO2 SLP088 P0011 60054 T01780161 55002 TSNO=
KAGC 081436Z AUTO 21006KT 3SM -RA BR SCT005 BKN010 OVC015 17/16 A2979
    RMK AO2 CIG 008V011 P0010 TSNO= (SPECI)
KAGC 081422Z AUTO 21005KT 2 1/2SM RA BR BKN005 OVC010 17/16 A2979 RMK
    AO2 CIG 003V008 P0007 TSNO= (SPECI)
KAGC 081353Z AUTO 16003KT 1 1/4SM RA BR BKN005 OVC011 17/16 A2979 RMK
    AO2 SLP086 P0026 T01720156 TSNO=
TAF AMD KAGC 081246Z 0813/0912 19007KT 3SM -RA BR SCT004 OVC015
     TEMPO 0813/0815 1SM RA BR OVC004
     FM081500 20008KT 3SM -RA BR BKN008 OVC030
     FM082000 29010KT P6SM BKN025
     FM090100 27005KT P6SM BKN040
     FM090800 26004KT 3SM BR BKN030=

Your shiny new glass panel is waiting to be installed. It’s time to make the call–go or no go?

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26 Comments

  • No icing forecast; however, if found to be false, and 9000 is the floor of the icing, you have some room above the Appalachians, but it could get a little iffy. The weather along the route does show weather that will be sufficient for diversions if necessary.

    Planes need a wash once in a while, and an IFR rated pilot who isn’t flying in the clouds wasted an awful lot of money obtaining the benefits of this type of rating. Enjoy the freedom of flight, even if you can’t see anything for a few hours. Bring along a Stratus and iPad and you’ll even have a good idea on what’s happening!

  • Go, but some changes.
    1) rather than fly the straight line route, add 50-60 miles and go west first. something like MHT-GFL-JHW-AGC. this will fairly quickly put you toward the backside of the weather and provide you with more “outs” if the weather is not as forecast.
    2) since you are going west you will need to fly 8,10 or 12 thousand feet. looking at the MEAs along the route 8 will be too low for the mountains. 10 is just above the freezing level so you might want to go to 12. I would expect that the Lance is lightly loaded so 12 should be reasonable. this may have the additional advantage of getting you above the clouds.

    3) be very careful of “get there itis” This is exactly the kind of situation where it can rear it’s ugly head. look for “outs” that will allow you to land early and wait a while for the weather to move further east.

  • Go. Should be a good IFR flight, but be prepared t divert to a landing if ice appears, or storms begin popping up. This would be a good time to have at least a stormscope on board, if not some sort of in flight weather if you cant climb above the clouds.

  • Definitely a go. With no ice and no convective activity in the forecast and the enroutes and destination above IFR minimums, this is a straight forward IFR flight.

    Interestingly, if this was a first or second flight with the new glass panel, I probably would wait for better weather. First, I’d really would want to make sure that all the new toys worked as advertised and second, with new glass, I’d want to make sure that I was fully up to speed in its use.

  • No Go, the weather is marginal but the pilot appears to be competent.

    The real reason for my no go is that a new glass panel is installed. This is not the weather situation to do a flight with new equipment. Yes, they did a test flight but not a prolonged flight. Probably just enough time to make sure all the buttons work and connected to the Garmin 430W.

    • Charles, I think the scenario describes the plane as going into the shop for its new panel; it has not yet been installed.

  • Go,I’d head south for lower MEA’s and warmer temperatures, plan a fuel stop east of the PA mountains, if weather worse than forecast, wait it out for frontal passage at fuel stop and better weather. If weather OK, press on to AGC.

  • No go!

    Weather in direction of destination is getting lower. Icing per Pirep Is a possibility. Convective sigmet says turbulence is possible too. Altitude needed to cross mountains doesnt afford tolerance given FZL.

    At the end of the day it is a risk reward question – why go to spend money? Not like this is revenue trip. Hold the dough for another day. You will be safer and feel richer.

  • As my wife would say, “it’s not if we CAN go, it’s if we SHOULD go.” This trip is close to breaking my personal “no go” criteria for a GA SEL airplane. What we don’t know is the, I’m safe model for the pilot and his/her proficiency.

    All things considered, I would wait for a better day. Remember the inconvenience of a delayed trip will soon be forgotten but an accident or incident will always be remembered and regretted.

  • FOR ME IT’S A NO -GO—– WHY NOT ENJOY THE FLIGHT—ITS NOT A REPAIR OR UPDATE THAT CANT WAIT——ITS A VERY SCENIC AREA FLIGHT——WAIT A WEEK——–

  • Definitely a go. I’d start by going about 50nm south (maybe file via PUT then direct) to give some padding around that developing occlusion over western New York state, but other than that you don’t get much more of a clear GO for instrument flying than a scenario like this. There’s a name for instrument pilots who don’t fly in the soup every once in a while: they’re called VFR pilots.

  • With new, glass instruments in your airplane, you should do several VFR trips and multiple approaches until you feel VERY CONFORTABLE! with your new avionics before you venture into IMC where you may have to shoot an approach to minimums.
    I fly a Mooney with a G1000 panel and it took me many many hs of study to familiarize myself with the avionics and 50 hs flying with a G1000 specialist CFII to get comfortable with this glass panel.

  • Very doable. Of course it is pilot induced minimums that need to be considered. I believe that any time a pilot needs to question whether or not he or she should go then the answer is always to wait for better weather. The forcast for Allegheny airport is improving and should not be a problem upon arrivial. There are also many airports in the area with instrument proceedures to divert to if there where to be a problem.

  • Sorry Sorry Sorry……..This is a NOOOOOOOOOOO Go!
    Sure….departure is great…..good visibility, great wind, and the icing is light to moderate…Not Severe. Ummmmmmmmmm…….however…….the visibility decreases along route and the wind shifts almost 180 degrees…..the ceiling gets lower and lower.
    Remember this is an incoming low…..with a occluding front north which might give a very bumpy ride….not to mention possible icing..(Hope you have De-icing..lol)
    No…..No……….No…….Sorry SUPER PILOTS…….THIS IS A NO GO!

    • The only icing reported is at FL240, and if you can get a Piper Lance to 24,000 feet, then you really are Superpilot. At a reasonable altitude for this aircraft, icing is nonexistent.

      Yes, the ceiling gets lower and lower. That’s WHY this is an instrument trip. IFR doesn’t require 3 miles and 1000 feet; that’s VFR. The lowest forecast for the destination is 400, which is *twice* the minimums required for an ILS (or WAAS, which the plane has), and it gets severely better as the day goes on.

      Far from requiring exceptional skills, this is such an ideal IFR trip that I’d be calling around to some of my students to recruit one of them to come along with me on it to get some real-world experience. This isn’t Superpilot weather, this is Instrument Student weather.

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