East Coast Flying

East Coast Flying

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Tough Decisions ? Go/no Go

Posted by Aaron Harrington on April 18, 2012 at 8:45 AM

It doesn’t happen often but there are times when I haves cheduled the airplane, planned the flight, and right at the last minute, I have to make the go/no go decision due to weather that is already happening and in the rare occasion, weather that will possibly be happening during my flight.My trip up to Summerset airport in NJ to pick up Shannon was such a flight.This 95 nautical mile trip (each way) would be starting just before dark with a planned,beautiful night flight back to Harford County. I have night experience, no doubt, and I went up last week to get in some night practice that included my three take-offs and full stop landings to be night current (read previous storycalled ‘Night Currency’;) and I have quite a bit of cross country time (morethan ¼ of my total hours) and I have flown this route twice before. I was very confident that this was going to be a ton of fun and I have been looking forward to making this trip for a few weeks now.

Yesterday, however, I woke up, got my cereal, and turned on the weather channel, my normal routine. After two weeks of them saying that Wed was going to be sunny and clear, I was surprised to hear they were calling for showers Wed afternoon through overnight. It was a 30% chance and so I thought I would still go, but track the weather throughout the day to ensure things weren’t going to get worse. This is where my ‘aeronautical decision making’ came into play. Throughout the day, the forecast stayed the same but  then as the  36 hr forecast became the 24 hour forecast, it was clear to me that the chances of rain were much higher and it isn’t so much about flying in the rain, as it is clouds or visibility. If you are like me,you get AOPA’s ePilot stories in your e-mail or the flight training edition.You read stories all the time of people that either had accidents or got themselves into situations that could have turned out poorly. The one thing they all have in common, is that the pilot made a decision that led him/her further down the rabbit hole of danger until things got too tight to back out and the only way left was forward. Thinking about this, I realized that, yes,If I was making this trip during daylight hours, I would totally go for it. I have flown places and waited for weather to pass and I have flown around weather that I have seen in front of me too, but at night, the story changes. It is near impossible to see approaching weather when you are in the air unlessyou have XM Weather, a stormscope, and possibly a full moon. Well, I don’t have XM weather, or a stormscope, and tonight is only 2 nights prior to what is known as a ‘new moon’ which means…..the moon isn’t even going to be out. So I would most likely be able to make it to Somerset without a problem, since it would still be light out, but if I was coming back and the visibility dropped to near zero, or I accidentally flew into low overcast (generally associatedwith rain making systems) then I could find myself in a very poor situation…..at night……in the dark.  “BUT” I was thinking to myself, the weather is only supposed to be around MD and the lower portion of PA, I could always divert to Martin State, or Carroll County right?! But the pit of my stomach said ‘no stupid, you don’t have an instrument rating, what happens when things become IMC on you?’ I was/am sooooo looking forward to this trip. So what did I do? Iasked a fellow pilot who has roughly the same amount of experience as myself, what he would do if he were planning on making the trip. Long story short, he said “no way” Slightly despondent, I knew all along the answer and I just didn’t want to hear it, but as the famous saying goes, “it is better to be on theground wishing you were in the air, than in the air, wishing you were on the ground” So I called Shannon and told her the conclusion. If it was in the daytime, I would have many more options open to me, but at night, with little night experience in the past 4-6 months other than some take-offs and landings and some light gps navigating of the Harford County/Cecil County area, this would be ‘risky’ to say the least. Oh well. Just thought I would share that will you all. Maybe I’ll see you at the airport and we can have some dialogue about it!

 

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