No matter how often your instrument instructor told you to look beyond the radar image, you still start every preflight planning session with a look at the green and yellow on ForeFlight’s Maps page. Unfortunately, today’s map looks quite colorful, with rain all over the eastern half of the US. That could be a problem, since you’re trying to fly your Mooney 201 from your home in Richmond, VA (RIC), to Charleston, SC (JZI), for a family vacation. The flight would take just over two hours, and you’re both instrument rated and proficient so IFR is the plan. ETD is 21:30Z.
Read the forecast below and tell us if it’s a go or a no go.
The Maps tab in ForeFlight does indeed show a lot of rain, both around your departure airport and in South Carolina. But most of it is green.
The surface analysis doesn’t shed much light on the situation—but at least there’s not a massive cold front?
The prog charts show worsening conditions overnight, but the heaviest rain and storms seem to stay west of your route.
Tomorrow morning is maybe even worse, so delaying (usually a good option in summer) isn’t necessarily a better idea.
Radar and satellite
All that precipitation demands more investigation, so next you look at the regional radar images. First is the northeast, which shows lots of rain around Richmond but more scattered showers in North Carolina.
Closer to your destination there is definitely some convection, but so far it appears to be well to the west and south of Charleston.
The visible satellite image doesn’t help much—there are definitely clouds, but that’s about all you can see.
The age old question: is all that rain convective or just a free airplane wash? There is a Convective SIGMET near your destination, so that’s worth watching.
The only other AIRMETs are for high level turbulence.
The cloud forecast offers some hope, though: bases along the coast look to be pretty high, with tops only in the low 20s.
Icing shouldn’t be a major concern given those high clouds, and the freezing level chart is even better news. Even if you did find clouds at 8000 or 10,000 feet, it looks like you would be well above freezing.
There are very few pilot reports along your route today. Other than a report of light icing at 16,000 feet (well above your typical cruise altitude), the only PIREP is near Florence, SC, from a Piper reporting a 3000 foot ceiling and 10 miles of visibility below.
Weather in Richmond is overcast but definitely not IFR—at least for now. The forecast calls for lowering ceilings overnight.
The radar image looks ugly, but almost everything else looks great. There seems to be no ice, turbulence, or IFR ceilings along your entire route. There might be some rain, but it does not look to be convective. And yet… some red cells to the west of your route and to the south of your destination look more threatening. Might they become a factor?
It’s time to make the go or no go call. Add your comment below and tell us what you would do (and why).
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