As you walk into the FBO at Atlanta’s DeKalb Peachtree Airport, you have that nervous excitement that always comes before a flight. The goal today is to get to Tallahassee, Florida, so you can be at a meeting first thing tomorrow morning. On paper, this is an ideal trip for you and your Piper Arrow. It should take just over an hour and a half, and a colleague will be waiting to pick you up in Florida.
Of course the only question now is the weather. Let’s look at what your iPad has to say, then decide whether it’s a go or a no go. Departure time is 4:30 eastern, or 2030 Zulu.
The surface analysis shows no significant fronts or lows throughout the entire Southeast US, just a big high centered over southern New Jersey. That’s encouraging…
A quick glance at the ForeFlight map shows a more active picture than the surface analysis might suggest. Thunderstorms have developed over most of southern Georgia.
Looking closer at the radar image shows that southeastern Georgia is pretty well covered in storms and rain. But the western side, where your route of flight would go, looks much more scattered.
A look at the satellite image will help a lot: are these pop- up storms or part of a large weather system moving in? First the visible satellite.
Next the infrared satellite, which does a good job of showing where the tops are really high.
The weather at your departure airport (PDK) looks pretty good, with light winds and excellent visibility. The METAR confirms this, and the report from Tallahassee is equally encouraging, with light winds, good visibility and a broken layer at 5,500.
Checking a few METARs en route also shows good conditions, with no significant clouds and good visibility. This suggests the weather is good VFR away from the storms.
Something must be going on, though, for the radar to be that colorful. A look at the prog charts shows a weak stationary front is forecast to hang out over the panhandle of Florida, with scattered showers.
Next comes a look at the TAFs for departure and destination. Atlanta looks great, with light winds and VFR conditions well into the night. Tallahassee looks VFR, but thunderstorms are in the forecast throughout the afternoon and evening.
With all those storms, it’s not a bad idea to consult the experimental convective forecasts. These offer a fairly accurate look at short term convective activity. First is the 2100Z forecast chart:
Then, the 2300Z chart, which shows dissipating storms:
It’s time to make the call – get in the Arrow and take off or get in the car and start driving? Given your experience, would you fly this trip? VFR or IFR? What route or altitude would you fly? Any concerns or questions?
Add a comment below with your answer, and explain your decision-making process.