Go or No Go: beating the storms?

It’s your regular business trip: Cincinnati, Ohio (I69), to Atlanta, Georgia (PDK) for an overnight visit. It’s an easy two hour flight in your Cirrus SR22, and you’re familiar with the route, but the weather map is colorful today. As you open ForeFlight just before noon local time, here are the weather maps you see. Read the briefing below and decide whether you would make the flight, with a proposed departure time of 1pm (1700Z).

Overview

There’s a full rainbow of colors on the map today, with thunderstorms and IFR conditions, but most of the ugly weather seems to be off to the west of your route.

The surface analysis shows a low pressure centered on Arkansas, with a north/south cold front extending from it. There appears to be a weak stationary front extending out to the east of the low (and right across your route).

The satellite image matches up with the overall picture.

Forecast charts

The prog charts show that cold front marching its way toward your destination over the next 24 hours. The prog chart for one hour after your departure shows the rain holding off.

The next prog chart shows the weather starting to approach Georgia by 00Z.

And by early tomorrow morning the low is over the middle of Tennessee.

Convection

One of your primary concerns today is convection, and there is certainly some lightning in the rain over Mississippi. The convective forecast shows pretty much what you’d expect.

And the convective SIGMETs match up with that.

Icing

Another concern today is icing, since you’ll need to go somewhat high to clear the western edges of the Appalachian Mountains. Fortunately the freezing level should be well above your 9,000 foot cruising altitude.

There aren’t any Pilot Reports of icing except in the flight levels.

Airport conditions

To get a more detailed view of the weather, it’s time to look at some METARs and TAFs. First, to get a big picture view of conditions, you turn on the visibility layer, which shows unrestricted visibility all over the Southeast.

Then it’s time for a look at the ceilings, which are marginal VFR to the west but still pretty clear over your route.

At your departure, conditions are good VFR. They’re forecast to stay decent for a few more hours before conditions deteriorate.

En route, the weather conditions seem to be pretty good right now.

At your destination, ceiling and visibility are both excellent, but the forecast for overnight certainly looks ugly.

Decision Time

As always, the decision isn’t a simple one. The weather map looks nasty, but there might be a window this afternoon to safely make the flight. Is that a good use of GA or tempting fate?

Tell us what you think: Would you fly the trip as proposed or would you cancel? If you would fly it, would you go VFR or IFR? Add a comment below.

23 Comments

  • GO! GO! GO!

    This one is practically a no-brainer, with the exception of if that low moves east WAY faster than expected. Plan your “out” to the NE of Atlanta, fuel up the plane, and have fun!

  • Go – early as possible. If things don’t work as planned – out is to the east or northeast, depending on where you are. Given that it’s the Atlanta area, consider with lots of fuel for vectoring or diversion. So plan a fuel stop just past half way.

  • The trip is a go for me, IFR. I want to be in the system getting into Atlanta, and can cancel once close if conditions allow. The bigger factor on this would be how important the return flight is tomorrow, as that is unlikely to be happening based on what I see of the weather.

  • Clear cut go asap, IFR, like others have plenty of reserve fuel, monitor the weather continuously in route to make a deviation when needed based on you and your planes ability. I’d fully expect it to be a nonevent boring flight.

  • I would go VFR with flight following if I don’t absolutely need to be home the next day – since I’m not IFR current. Try to leave as early aa possible, full fuel. Lots of VFR and MVFR options east of route if the weather moves in faster than predicted. Since return the next day is iffy – if I absolutely must be home at a specific time the next day, I would postpone the trip or make alternative plans – there are commercial flights from Cincinnati to Atlanta, both are Delta hubs.

  • Go if you’re not needing to be home for a couple of days. I’d file IFR or at least VFR with F/F. Carefully plan some optionality to the east if the front moves faster than predicted and carry extra fuel.

  • No way would I fly that route in a single engine airplane. Wait a day , fly commercial or drive.

  • Go without delay. File an IFR flight plan but depart VFR – pick up the IFR clearance enroute if the weather enroute dictates. If you have to return tomorrow, plan on a commercial flight.

  • I would go, VFR with full fuel, as soon as possible. For me, VFR gives you more options for avoiding weather along the route and allows for more time in the cockpit to assess the weather. If the weather is getting worse than expected you can air-file an IFR flight plan with more weather knowledge to pick a destination airport with satisfactory weather. I would expect a pleasant trip, but maintain weather situational awareness (just like always).

  • I would go. I would also make an effort to head out early if I can. If I were delayed in leaving I would cancel the trip if not off the ground by 15:00. I would also go IFR since the Corrus is a good platform for that. I would, however, expect to leave in the later afternoon to evening time the next day at the earliest with the understanding that I might be spending two nights in Georgia.

  • I would GO IFR and be prepared to stay an extra 1-2 days if the system moving in to cover my return trip the next day becomes convective. I do not mind flying through light to occasionally moderate rain; but moderate or greater turbulence is for the birds!

  • NO GO based on time of day (early afternoon and headed toward deteriorating weather that is also ahead of schedule based on the prog chart, TAF, vs. the radar map which already depicts widespread level 1-2 returns. The low over western NC is a problem combined with the mountains east of Knoxville. Plenty of lifting combined with upsloping winds increase the likely hood of large afternoon buildups right where the terrain will not allow lower than 8000’ flight. The fact that it’s an overnight flight with deteriorating weather the following morning reinforces my choice to use alternative means to make the meeting and get home safely the next day.

  • This is my life story, it seems! I’d go without delay. I’d also have some backup plans along the route in case bad weather moves in faster than predicted.

  • I would file IFR and be off within an hour. I prefer to already be in the system in case things get worse than forecast. I would also have plans B,C, & D in place in case I needed to divert.

  • After having flown for 50+ years in the Air Force, Mass ANG and as a civilian pilot I would first have a face-to-face conversation with pilots and the weather ‘folks’ at 169 airport to obtain any/ALL their comments about my planned flight route. Based on no ‘strong’ negative comments…GO VFR, and obtain ‘Flight Following’ to stay up-to-date with the weather as I fly the route in our Cessna 182 aircraft.

  • A GO for me. My Cessna 400 thrives in the weather. I wouldn’t do the trip without onboard weather, but since I got my insturment rating, lot’s of trips have that requirement. When you can monitor what’s up ahead, it adds a layer of safety we didn’t have in the old days. There are about 50 plan B’s on that trip to choose from, making it safe and likely completed.

  • An easy GO decision for either a competent IFR or VFR pilot. The contemplation of plan B is ever unfolding during the flight and made so much easier with plethora of ADS-B weather related info onboard.

    Why even have an airplane if one doesn’t enjoy the challenge of confronting Mother Nature and creating dynamic alternatives to safe flight in an ever changing environment?

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