It’s a typical late afternoon flight for you, with the mission of returning your boss to his home in Lexington, Kentucky (LEX) after a day in Greensboro, North Carolina (GSO). The trip should take just under two hours in your Beechcraft Baron, which you fly professionally. It’s well equipped, with datalink weather, onboard radar, dual GPSs and an autopilot. You have over 1500 hours in the airplane and are instrument proficient, since you almost always fly IFR. Take a look at the weather briefing below and tell us if you would make the trip or cancel. Proposed departure time is 1815Z, so arrival will be just before sunset.
The map on ForeFlight shows nasty storms the the southwest, but nothing more than green radar returns along your route. There are plenty of red and even a few pink METAR circles, though.
The surface analysis shows the driving force behind this weather pattern: a low pressure system over eastern Tennessee and some associated fronts:
The prog charts show the system moving through the Carolinas and Virginia over the next 24 hours, with plenty of rain overnight:
By tomorrow morning, the worst of the rain should be through the area, but some leftover rain will remain in Kentucky on the backside:
Radar and satellite
With some rain on the map, a good first stop is the radar and satellite images. Regional radar shows a thin line of rain across southeastern Kentucky, but it’s mostly green at this time, and your destination looks clear.
The infrared satellite confirms that, unlike the area in southwestern North Carolina, the clouds along your route have less vertical development.
The visible satellite fills in some gaps, including how widespread the lower level clouds are near Lexington.
It’s May and there are some lightning bolts on the ForeFlight map, so a check of potential convection is in order. Sure enough, some Convective SIGMETs are active.
The short term convective forecast, though, shows storms only to your south.
It looks like a definite IFR flight today and with mountains across your route you’ll probably be flying above 7,000 feet. Might icing be a concern? Fortunately, all the icing AIRMETs are well north of your route.
And the freezing level chart shows you should have an ice-free ride, even at 10,000 feet.
Last on the list is a look at surface conditions. The approaching low seems to mean IFR conditions over a wide area, as the surface chart shows.
The cloud forecast chart shows more detail about the clouds, with lower tops near your destination but higher tops en route.
Some Pilot Reports confirm this forecast, with tops in the high 20s in that line of rain:
But the tops are much lower near Lexington:
Reviewing the METARs, you find that your departure is reporting marginal VFR conditions with good visibility. The forecast shows showers later in the evening, but still marginal VFR until 8pm local.
En route, conditions vary from solid VFR to low IFR. Near the North Carolina-Virginia border, Mount Airy is reporting good visibility and light winds but a ceiling at 1,100 feet.
In the Virginia mountains, conditions are about the same but the ceiling has become solid and at 800 feet.
In the Tri-Cities area, conditions are solid VFR:
Lexington, your destination, is reporting low IFR conditions. The ceiling is right at minimums for the ILS runway 22 and visibility is above the 3/4 mile minimum. The forecast is for conditions to stay low, but then to slowly improve around the time of your arrival.
Time to make the go/no-go call. Your boss is a very understanding traveler, but getting home to Lexington tonight is clearly preferable. It’ll be an IFR flight, but no ice and probably no convective weather en route. Your destination is low IFR, but it’s a big airport with good lighting and a full ILS. Add a comment below and tell us what you would do.
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