Fall in Maine is simply wonderful, as you’ve seen for yourself this week. The air was crisp and the colors on the trees were beautiful, but now it’s time to fly home. Your Cessna 310 is fueled up and ready to make the 3.5 hour flight from Bar Harbor (BHB) to your home near Gaithersburg, Maryland (GAI). Will the weather cooperate?
You’re instrument rated and current, so you’ll be flying this trip IFR unless there’s a good reason not to. Your airplane is well equipped, with datalink weather, dual WAAS GPSs, and a good autopilot. You do not have deice equipment. Read the weather briefing below, then add a comment to tell us whether it’s a go for you, or a no go. Proposed departure time is 1930Z.
The Maps page in ForeFlight shows a fairly colorful picture, with rain and some convective activity in the Northeast, plus plenty of PIREPs.
The surface analysis shows a cold front moving in from the west, which is driving a lot of the activity from a weather standpoint.
The forecast charts show the front moving through New England overnight, with accompanying rain. The 12-hour chart is really showing current conditions:
The 24-hour chart shows the front’s position tonight.
Radar and satellite
You know you’re dealing with an advancing cold front, so step one is to get a feel for the clouds and precipitation. The regional radar shows an area of light to moderate rain in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine, plus some heavier returns over New York.
The infrared satellite shows plenty of clouds over the first two thirds of your route today, with the thickest part in Maine.
The visible satellite offers some additional detail.
Hazards: ice, turbulence, convection
It looks like convection, icing, and turbulence are all potential issues today. That means a look at AIRMETs and SIGMETs is in order. There are no SIGMETs, but there is a convective SIGMET around that line in New York.
The AIRMET for turbulence is a busy map, which is to be expected given the windy conditions ahead of that cold front.
The winds aloft chart for 6000 feet explains the busy map—winds are out of the west at 50 knots over New York.
The Pilot Report (PIREP) map shows plenty of orange icons. It looks like a bumpy day in the clouds and also down low with the gusty winds.
Looking a little closer at some PIREPS shows somewhat conflicting details. A Cirrus just north of your route at 8000 reported above freezing temperatures and no turbulence; a Cessna 402 just south of your route reported light to moderate turbulence and light snow, but in clear air at 8000.
Icing is another concern, given the time of year and the location. It looks like icing is only an issue at higher altitudes today.
Checking the freezing level confirms this. You should be above freezing as long as you stay below about 8-9000 feet.
Icing PIREPs mostly support this picture—there are plenty of them, but all above 10,000 feet.
While you’re IFR today, it’s worth checking out the overall cloud picture. The 3-hour forecast chart shows widespread clouds until you get to Maryland, but some of the ceilings are fairly high.
Your departure airport is reporting marginal VFR conditions and reasonably strong wind from the south. The forecast calls for rain and thunderstorms to move in after your departure time.
En route, most airports are reporting solid VFR conditions with a ceiling around 7000 feet AGL.
Your destination is reporting good VFR and is forecast to stay that way, but the wind is definitely blowing.
It’s time to make the go/no-go call. All the METARs show VFR or at worst marginal VFR conditions, and there appears to be no threat of icing as long as you stay below 10,000 feet. In fact, you may be in VMC for most of the flight if you cruise at 6000 feet. However, thunderstorms are firing up in a solid line over New York, and the strong winds both aloft and at the surface promise a bumpy ride.
Add a comment below and tell us what you would do.
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