A relaxing few days in the Florida Keys have come to an end, and you have Mother Nature to thank for your amended plans. An imposing cold front means that, instead of staying on the beach, you’re trying to get home before storms and IFR conditions come to town. The goal today is to fly your club’s Cessna 172 from Marathon (MTH) to Orlando (ORL), Florida. It should take about two hours, and with a proposed departure time of 4:15pm, you would be landing a little before sunset.

But the weather you see on ForeFlight isn’t exactly quiet. Since you do not have an instrument rating, this flight will have to be made VFR. Can you get to Orlando safely? Review the weather below and add your comment.

Overview

The route overview makes it clear what the challenge will be: getting home before the rain moves in. It appears quite scattered around Orlando, but there are some uglier colors up north.

The surface analysis shows the source of this rain, with a cold front draped across Florida from west to east.

The prog charts show the front, along with its associated rain, sagging south overnight.

Tomorrow morning looks even worse, so spending the night may not solve any problems. But maybe the worst would move off to the east?

Radar and satellite

To get more detail on the rain, you pull up the regional radar image for Florida. It shows a convective cell right over Orlando, but the solid line of rain is still north of Ocala.

The satellite image shows mostly clear skies for the first half of your flight, but increasing clouds the further north you get.

The cloud forecast map suggests that ceilings will only become an issue right around your destination.

Text weather

The weather in the Keys is excellent, and forecast to stay that way (that’s why you came in the first place!).

En route, most airports are reporting scattered clouds at around 5,000 feet, but good visibility and light winds.

In Orlando, the current weather is great, but the TAF shows marginal VFR conditions as the day goes on.

There’s one Pilot Report that is worth considering – an Airbus just a few miles north of your destination airport reported a broken ceiling at 2,700 feet.

Decision time

It’s time to make the call: are you taking off for home or spending another night in Marathon? The weather looks quite good until the last 20 miles, but those miles include scattered rain and perhaps marginal VFR ceilings. Is it a go or a no go? Add your comment below.

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11 replies
  1. Gideon
    Gideon says:

    Go earlier an hour or 90 mins…and if it gets knarly divert to Winterhaven or Lakeland or even better Kissimmee (easier to get a rental car and closer for a instructor to collect the a/c from.).

    Reply
  2. Ken Ouellette
    Ken Ouellette says:

    Ive done this 100’s of times. from kmth to tampa. in the winter and spring no problem just be prepared to deviate you have a ton of choices around that area. if this was late july or August no way this flight would be possible to late in the day. The fronts in my experience here offer usually acceptable ceilings in the spring as long as the dew point spread is good. I would not hesitate to consider this flight in march.

    Reply
  3. Patrick
    Patrick says:

    I agree with Ken. It’s a go. I’m based in FL and you face this dilemma every afternoon and there’s many choices to land a short driving distance away from Orlando. Now it would be very different if you were going further north into GA. That would be a no-go for me.

    Reply
  4. Marc Rodstein
    Marc Rodstein says:

    I have been based in FL for the past 37 years. This is an easy go decision. The forecast for Orlando is for Bkn at 2500 and greater than 6 miles all the way into early morning. The temporary 3 miles in rain showers is still good VFR, and in Florida rain showers are easy to circumvent with the flat terrain. And as Patrick says, there are abundant airports to divert to all along the the 2nd half of the trip in case the weather isn’t good at destination.

    Go, and be prepared to divert in the event the destination weather is less than forecast.

    Reply
  5. RICHARD CAREY
    RICHARD CAREY says:

    Go
    Concerns for activity parallel to front
    Divert not received added consideration
    Last 25 miles altitude is 2000 look for visibility and ground obstacles in route last few miles in case weather forces you down more.
    Tomorrow is not an option as it worsens, at least I can be in driving distance and come back for plane later if I need to.
    I’m going but have several options in my plan

    Reply
  6. JOHN ROUSCH
    JOHN ROUSCH says:

    Go
    I agree with Marc.
    I’m based at Sebring for the last 20 years, and we fight the afternoon cells all the time.

    There are many alternates along the route, and if it closes in, put down and don’t push it. The cells may be scattered, but they are mighty.

    Reply
  7. Lee DeRosa
    Lee DeRosa says:

    Go- if comfortable- for all the above reasons.
    Consider, however, doing whetever it takes to get your instrument rating, and give yourself a whole new dimension of enjoyment in aviation.

    Reply
  8. Richard Measel
    Richard Measel says:

    Intro doesn’t identify the pilots qualifications. Flying a rental aircraft. How many hours does the pilot have? Low time pilot, I would recommend against the flight. Reason for late departure isn’t identified and too often departures are delayed, forcing a more uncomfortable “go-no go” decision. High time pilot, in aircraft and region, makes a go decision easier BUT weather forecasts are educated guesses. Conditions can change.

    Reply
  9. David Consbruck
    David Consbruck says:

    I am curious why the pilot thought he could blast straight through the sizable restricted area south of Orlando. Just because the magenta line was straight, doesn’t mean it can be flown that way. No mention of status of restricted area in the briefing.

    I am wary about making a long cross country flight when the weather is forecast to get worse, not better. I have seen is get quite worse, more than expected in local areas, even at the destination. Have to have a back up plan and alternates already considered.

    Reply
  10. Chip
    Chip says:

    No-go for me. You guys made good cases for going, but with only 200 +/- PIC behind me, I will live to fly another day.

    Reply

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