As a corporate pilot, you watch your phone continuously – if it rings, you’re probably going flying. Today, you’re really hoping it doesn’t ring, because there’s a nasty weather system parked across the eastern US – right where you often fly. So of course Murphy’s Law is in effect and the boss calls – he needs to get from your home base in Cincinnati, Ohio (LUK) to Danville, Virginia (DAN). And he needs to get there today.
At least you have a capable airplane – the Cessna 340 you fly is pressurized, has two turbocharged engines, weather radar and deice boots. It also has a G600 glass panel, dual WAAS GPS navigators and a good autopilot. You’re a fairly experienced pilot, with 2500 hours total time and nearly 1000 hours in the 340, and you fly it single pilot IFR all over the country.
But is today too much? As you contemplate the 3pm takeoff (1900Z), here is the weather report.
A cold front came through earlier in the week, but it stalled out over the Atlantic coast, and an off-shore hurricane seems to be feeding it moisture. Rain is moving onshore, from east to west, in waves.
The surface analysis chart shows the details, including that Low that is just sitting there off South Carolina:
The question is, where is all that weather going? Unlike a typical pattern, it seems unlikely it will slide offshore. The 12-36 hour surface charts don’t show much change at all.
To get a three dimensional view, you look at the low level prog charts. These show, as you would expect, IFR conditions and low level turbulence over most of the mid-Atlantic.
The 500mb analysis adds a little more detail – suggesting there isn’t much of an upper level force to send that rain out to sea.
Radar and Satellite
From forecasts it’s now time to move to observations. A look at the radar and satellite imagery offers this unappealing view, although your destination does seem to be west of the worst rain, and it doesn’t look convective.
Ice, Turbulence and Convection
In-flight icing certainly could be a consideration on this early Fall day, and there is some activity in the flight levels today. First, the icing AIRMETs.
Then the icing forecast, which is awash with blue. At first glance, it looks awful.
Convection also doesn’t seem to be a big issue – that mess of precipitation is mostly rain. The convective SIGMETs map shows only activity offshore.
A glance at the newer CCFP tool, which not necessarily predictive, does offer more detail about any potential thunderstorms. You look at the 2-hour and 4-hour products.
Turbulence, on the other hand, seems almost unavoidable today. Like the icing, though, the worst rides seem to be up high. If you stay down low, the forecast maps don’t show much more than occasional light chop.
With that big picture in mind, it’s time to turn to the PIREPs for a real-time look at conditions. Icing PIREPs are out there for sure, but all of them are at 18,000 ft. and above.
There are plenty of turbulence PIREPs, but again, almost all of them are in the flight levels. Is the ride OK or is nobody flying?
Just because you’re a real weather geek, you review the Skew-T log(p) diagrams for a three dimensional look at the atmosphere near your departure and destination airports.
Finally, it’s on to the text weather reports. The METARs and TAFs for your departure airport show gusty winds, but pretty high ceilings and good visibility for now. That may not continue, though.
KLUK 021653Z 03016G20KT 10SM SCT120 14/08 A3010
KLUK 021553Z 04015KT 10SM SCT025 BKN090 OVC110 12/07 A3011
TAF KLUK 021743Z 0218/0318 04015G22KT P6SM VCSH OVC050
TEMPO 0218/0222 OVC035
FM030000 04016G20KT P6SM VCSH OVC050
TEMPO 0310/0312 3SM -RA OVC028
FM031300 04014G20KT 5SM -RA BR SCT009 OVC018
FM031600 05015G23KT 5SM -RA BR OVC009
The METARs and TAF at your destination aren’t quite so good.
KDAN 021736Z AUTO 04012KT 2 1/2SM -RA BR BKN011 OVC015 13/12 A2994
RMK AO2 P0003 T01330117= (SPECI)
KDAN 021653Z AUTO 03009G19KT 10SM -RA BKN010 OVC014 13/12 A2993 RMK
AO2 RAB12 SLP129 P0001 T01330117=
KDAN 021553Z AUTO 05013G23KT 10SM OVC012 13/12 A2994 RMK AO2
RAB1457E44 SLP131 P0000 T01330117=
TAF KDAN 021739Z 0218/0318 03014G22KT 6SM -RA BR OVC010
FM022200 03019G27KT 4SM RA BR OVC008
FM030900 03014G22KT 6SM -RA BR OVC006=
As bad as that looks, the weather conditions are forecast to stay above minimums – Danville has an ILS to runway 2 that goes to 200 ft. and half a mile of visibility. The crosswind also doesn’t look too bad for the 5900 ft. long runway.
The boss is waiting for you to call back. While the weather is definitely not good, it’s above IFR minimums and it looks like you can stay out of the ice. But it may not be a comfortable ride. Is it safe? Is it comfortable? What do you tell your employer – go or no go? Add a comment below.