Explaining Weather Decision Making

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by spiderweb, Apr 13, 2006.

  1. spiderweb

    spiderweb Final Approach

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    I feel bad about one aspect of this X-C we did. We left Tuesday and were supposed to come back today. We came back yesterday, though, because both adds website and the briefer said that today would be "tough." It looked like I would be dodging thunderstorms. Now, I have experience with this, and don't have a problem with it. But I was worried about my passenger (spousal unit) getting sick if it were to get really bumpy (and there was no weather avionics on board). I had to explain this to the friends we were staying with, too.

    Of course, it looks like today would have been fine--one of those rare days where the weather turns out better than predicted. To top that off, my wife says she wouldn't have cared. At least she thanked me for making what I thought was a conservative decision.

    Sigh.
     
  2. ScottM

    ScottM Taxi to Parking

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    iBazinga!
    C'est le guarre, It is better to be safe than sorry and you made a decision with the best information you had at the time. It happens
     
  3. Iceman

    Iceman Pre-takeoff checklist

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    A few times we have delayed our trip a day or two and it's a pain in the rear. However, sometimes we find out after the fact that it would have been a huge mistake to push on...in the end it all works out.
     
  4. Len Lanetti

    Len Lanetti Cleared for Takeoff

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    Two other conservative options, when the weather forcast is iffy for the proscribed day of departure, that may allow you to stay:

    - Launch and Land...if the weather where you are is OK but iffy en-route take off with the thought that you can land at some intermediate place if the weather up ahead is worse than your minimums. Knowing if weather up ahead is worse might be a matter of checking in with FSS while in flight or simply looking out the window depending on the availability of intermediate stopping point. To make things fun for passengers try to pick intermediate stopping points that may have something fun to do.

    - Stay where you are 'till the weather is better. Instead of leaving a day early, leave a day or two later.

    Either alternative above may require the flexibility to not be home when you originally expected. I often bring my work laptop and project "stuff" with me when I travel so if I get stuck somewhere I can work from where I am. I never had to do that but I'm lucky that I have that option. So, I could work out of the hotel room while Karen (wife) and the kids go do something fun while we wait out the weather.

    Len
     
  5. ggroves

    ggroves Pattern Altitude

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    Ben,

    In the mid-Atlantic, there is a chance of thunderstorms typically every day. Based solely on that, you won't get much flying done April - September. When there's a chance, I wait until the "day of" to make my decisions. As long as the t-storm activity isn't due to some heavy duty frontal activity, I'm comfortable seeing and avoiding.

    Having a stormscope and/or Nexrad in the cockpit helps your comfort level tremendously. However, you did the right thing and didn't ignore your own personal comfort level.

    Greg
    182RG
     
  6. wsuffa

    wsuffa Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Ben,

    Nothing wrong with your decision. Our weather in San Antonio is probably more variable - often the weather doesn't work out as forecast (so much so that I've taken to calling the TV weather people Weather Liarcasters).

    Now, if you're going to make long trips and maintain any sembelance of a schedule, you'll have to figure out various options to get there. In this case, with SWMBO on board and (presumably) no option to travel on the following day, going early was not a bad decision. When I travel, even loaded with weather gear, I sometimes choose to leave earlier rather than later depending on the forecast.

    Greg is 100% correct in saying that sometimes you need to wait until the day-of rather than the day before to make the call. That's especially true in the summer time with air mass thunderstorms. Squall lines and frontal systems are easier to predict. With those, you can fly for a while, stop, and wait for the storms to pass, then proceed afterward. Having options for your routing helps, too.

    I find that the mental part of instrument flying is more about learning the weather than it is the mechanical part of flying the plane. Weather prognostics require judgement and experience.
     
  7. grattonja

    grattonja Line Up and Wait

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    You never know which way the weather will break for sure. Last Saturday, we were going to take the G1000 'hawk from Smoketown down to Delaware for a bit of practice. It was supposed to be high ceiling actual in the am, giving way to windy VFR in the pm. The radar did not seem to us consistent with that. Having only a little time in the new panel so far, we elected not to go, and waited to see if we were wrong. It never broke. At the time we would have been coming back, we started getting some wet snow and ice crystals mixed in with the rain, and one guy who was briefly stranded at Smoketown told us he had been fixing to depart, when he got two pireps for clear ice at 2500 feet. Practice approaches locally usually start around 3000:hairraise:

    They were wrong and we were right to be on the ground. And you know the old saw on being on the ground looking up rather than vice versa.

    Jim G
     
  8. Ed Guthrie

    Ed Guthrie Cleared for Takeoff

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    Rarely do we get confirmation that a decision was correct, usually we find out after the fact that things could have been completed as planned. In my flying I have had only one time when a decision to delay was confirmed. In that particular case I opted to overnight in Roanoke rather than continue home IFR. Had I continuted the plan was to fly the MEA to avoid icing above, however, I thought the odds of icing busting the forecast and pushing down below the MEA was too great to justify the risk. The next morning I learned that an aircraft had crashed on my intended route at nearly exactly the time I would have crossed the crash location. The cause of the crash was airframe icing and the aircraft was flying the MEA when the pilot reported encoutering icing.

    The lesson to me was that all the "could have been completed" delays over the years was were worth the one "could have killed me" delay.
     
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  9. ScottM

    ScottM Taxi to Parking

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    Or others find out your decision was wrong and now you are dead. Think how many tiems we read accident reports that invovle WX and we think to ourselves 'well I wouldn't have gone, wonder why he decided to go?'

    Just remeber the old saying: There are old pilot and there are bold pilots but there are no old, bold pilots

    Good words to live by, IMHO.
     
  10. spiderweb

    spiderweb Final Approach

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    Thanks, Greg. Yep, I do know that there are T-storms predicted every day these days. I do have experience picking my way around them. I guess I was worried by the briefer's use of the technical term, "tough" coupled with the idea that there was to be a cold front passage. If I only had had access to internet, I would've seen that it wasn't going to be a big deal.

    Weather in the cockpit helps, though, and so I've made a decision. Look for a post on that shortly. . . .

     
  11. spiderweb

    spiderweb Final Approach

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    Very good point.
     
  12. spiderweb

    spiderweb Final Approach

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    Thanks, everybody, for your thoughts. All in all, I am comfortable with my decision, when I factor in the newness of my IFR ticket, the lack of onboard weather, and my consideration for my passenger. I have made a decision, though, which I will discuss in a new post.
     
  13. DoubleD

    DoubleD Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Reading all the posts above, two thoughts:

    1. You'll never have serious regrets about a flight you delayed or scrubbed.

    2. Often you can take off and take a look, but only if you have a plan of retreat. Many times I've delayed enroute, for a few hours or overnight. Usually had fun while stopped over.
     
  14. spiderweb

    spiderweb Final Approach

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    I'm voting on this post. I think that the experience itself is something that can't be learned in ground school. I'm giving it a high rating--not because it is my post--but because it is full of valuable thoughts from persons whom I respect.
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2006
  15. gprellwitz

    gprellwitz Touchdown! Greaser!

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    We just had one of those "should I believe the forecaster" evenings. I'm not (yet) instrument rated, but that isn't why we changed our plans. We were planning to head north for dinner with three other planes. The briefers told a couple of us that a frontal system was expected in at about the time we traditionally got back from dinner flyouts. None of us were real sure, but decided to play it cautious and selected a destination much closer.

    We opted for 06C instead of KMKE. We had a great dinner, and wound up feeling confident enough about the weather after dinner to do a curcumnavigation of Chicago, and still got back to the home airport (1C5) before sundown, which is very unusual for us. Nevertheless, there was enough crosswind on final to demand attention, and I probably wouldn't have wanted to be landing a Hawk (or even a Skylane, which is what we were originally planning to take) in winds gusting to 21 directly across the runway. As it is, we had a great dinner, a very nice lakefront flight, and time for drinks after landing. And no stress at dinner about whether we'd be able to make it back in time for Easter.

    I've decided that, even when I have my IA, I'm going to be a conservative flyer when it comes to convective activity:lightning:. Yes, I might miss out on a few flights in the short term that I might have otherwise made, my extended lifespan will allow me to have more successful flights overall. :goofy:
     
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  16. SCCutler

    SCCutler Administrator Management Council Member PoA Supporter

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    Benm I'll echo comments made by others, that you can *never* second-guess a "scrub the mission" call. Apply judgment, execute, analyze. As time goes by, you may get a better feeling for what the weather is going to do, and may also get a feeling for when the briefers are being exceedingly cautious.

    My wife's a funny bird; she is fearless on the ground, frequently challenging my "no go" decisions (especially when it's about getting back home, like when we were in Santa Fe). But then, when we are in the air, if things are marginal, she is much meeker! In any event, if she is pressing for a decision that I might no want to make, I just remind her that I am the pilot, and I will not put my family into harm's way.
     
  17. spiderweb

    spiderweb Final Approach

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    Thanks Spike!
     
  18. spiderweb

    spiderweb Final Approach

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    Grant, that's a good idea.
     
  19. etsisk

    etsisk En-Route

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    I'll just repeat what Ron said (I think it was Ron, anyway):

    regarding go/no-go decisions:
    it's easy to be an idiot in that situation and impossible to be a wuss.

    Works for me!
     
  20. bbchien

    bbchien Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I got back from Columbus OH on Friday night. There was a huge line of T-storms approaching from the Mississippi River; I was at Danville(DNV) and the briefer would only tell me "you're not going to get to Peoria tonight". After three rounds, I insisted that he tell me the location and velocity/direction of the line. I made it of course, running higher than normal airspeed, but with pretty good margins. I wrote the briefer.

    Only the pilot can make the judgement. Start conservatively.
     
  21. wsuffa

    wsuffa Touchdown! Greaser!

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    And you do learn that judgement with time.

    Fastest trip I ever made from Dallas to Cincinnati, then on to DC was on the front side of a frontal system. Far enough from the front that it wasn't too rough, but close enough to catch a hellacious tailwind.
     
  22. spiderweb

    spiderweb Final Approach

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    Thanks, guys!