Over the last 10 years, you’ve gotten to know your Mooney 201 quite well, using it to travel around the central United States at 160 knots. You’re hoping to do that again today, on a flight from your home in Wichita, Kansas (ICT), to Amarillo, Texas (AMA). Your airplane may be vintage, but it’s a fine cross-country cruiser, so the trip should take just over an hour and a half.
Proposed departure is 1400Z and you’re hoping to go VFR if possible. Read the weather reports below and tell us if it’s a go or a no go for you.
At first glance, conditions look reasonably good for your flight, with green METAR circles all over the map. But some green radar returns are worth looking at in more detail.
The current surface analysis shows benign conditions in Kansas, but a weak front over North Texas.
The first prog chart shows storms developing over Oklahoma later in the day.
The short term convective forecast matches this chart, but all the activity should be east of your route.
Radar and satellite
There’s definitely some rain along your route, but all the green METAR circles suggest it isn’t too serious. To learn more, you turn on the “lowest tilt” radar layer in ForeFlight. It shows no green along your route, suggesting that area of precipitation is aloft and not hitting the ground. Maybe it’s just wet clouds above 10,000 feet?
The visible satellite image shows fairly consistent clouds across Oklahoma and southern Kansas.
But the cloud forecast shows this to be a fairly high layer, with bases above 10,000 feet. It looks like you could fly along at 6,500 or 8,500 feet and be in the clear.
This part is pretty easy: your departure airport is reporting excellent VFR conditions and it is forecast to stay that way.
Your destination is likewise forecast to remain VFR throughout the day. The wind is blowing, but when is it not in Texas?
The weather is good VFR and that rain appears to be up high. But those PIREP symbols on the map are worrying. There are multiple reports of moderate turbulence at lower altitudes, and some are even severe. These are west of your route, but not by too much.
Another one, closer to your route, shows moderate turbulence at 5,500.
South of your route there’s another one, with some worrying notes.
The turbulence forecast layer in ForeFlight shows a few areas of concern, but nothing major.
The current SIGMET map might offer an explanation. The gusty winds seem to be causing low level wind shear, although again it’s mostly east of your route.
It’s time to make the call. The weather is great, but the wind is blowing and it might be a bumpy flight. Are you flying to Amarillo or canceling? Add your comment below and tell us your decision.
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If flight strictly for pleasure, probably cancel. If for something more important, I would go. Might be bumpy but only 1.5 hrs and doesn’t seem to be any likely danger.
I fully agree with LeWayne; if needed to be in KAMA, I’d go, knowing it might be a bit uncomfortable for a while.
These discussions are really insightful for a lower-time PP. I enjoy reading through them.
I would also go on the flight.
There would be some moderate turbulence enroute,
I’ll also have a alternate available due to the probability of wind share at destination.
Might very well be bumpy around those up and down drafts, but there is no need to fly through the areas where the worst has been reported. After departing ICT, just head toward Liberal KS and pick a higher altitude (maybe 10,500) until clear of the bumps then direct AMA. If turbulence is encountered as previously reported by others, slow to VA and tighten down everything in the airplane, including the pilot!
I would probably go unless this was a purely recreational trip. It could be uncomfortable, but doable. I would want to look at the winds aloft to see if this is indeed a result of atmospheric mixing of low level winds or a wind shear aloft. There may be an altitude where the ride is less uncomfortable, most likely higher. At any rate flying higher may allow flight at Va with decent ground speed if turbulence is persistent.
Low Ings has the right idea. If solo, it is a definite “go.” Saddle up, strap in and start asking for pireps as the gear retracts. If there are pax, their comfort becomes a major factor. Could a deviation north, climbing to 10-12 thousand and adding 20″ to the ete find a smoother ride? This is a day when a timely pirep becomes that one peek that’s worth a thousand cross-checks.
I had a similar decision just last weekend. Ended up driving and glad I did. We fly for the good experience and prepare for the bad. Nothing better than a smooth ride. Depends on personal limits.
I’d likely go but first I’d want to check the winds aloft and look at a few skew-t’s to get an idea it a smoother ride might be possible at another altitude. But as the others mentioned, expect some bumps and fly accordingly.
I would cancel. It’s not just the turbulence, but the winds at the destination – not only high and gusting but changing direction. In 55 years of flying I’ve seen too much bad and sometimes unpredictable wx around a stationary front. With high tops, high winds below and known turbulence there’s all the ingredients for going beyond bumps and a tough xwind landing to popup t storms. I grew up and started flying in south Louisiana and learned to respect T storms and how fast they can come up with the right conditions.