Thursday, 15 May 2014

Am I a weather wuss? (part 1)

I hate making a call about the weather, especially when I’m not down on the apron looking at the sky.
Yesterday was a great example of how although my confidence in my cockpit decisions is increasing, my confidence in my judgement still needs some work.

The weather forecast has been iffy all week. Spring rains and storms abound. But there have been days that were forecast to be sucky and actually turned out to be ok. Bob had booked a plane for me to go out and do some circuits. Solo stuff and he’d arrange for someone to sign me out.

I was mildly optimistic that the weather might cooperate enough. My personal limits for circuits are a bit lower than for local flights. Busy day at work, I started to pull up the METAR/TAF at about midday.

Hmmm, marginal was the best description, cloud base may or may not have been OK. Winds were light, possibility of a nasty TEMPO coming our way.

I text Bob.

Keep an eye on it he advises. (I honestly don’t know what I was expecting him to do at this point)

At 3:00pm I call Flight services for a weather briefing. Still the same “maybe, maybe not”. Although they thought that the forecast storms wouldn’t be here until after sundown and there was a possibility of the cloud breaking up.

Updated TAF and another text conversation with Bob. I’m looking out the window and think the cloud base is higher than reported but there is a worryingly low dewpoint/temperature split and I can see mist forming at Ontario place.

On Bob’s advice I call the flight school. No one flying. No PIREPS. They think I’m good for circuits.
I decide to give it a go and headed out the door. I got as far as the lineup for the Ferry. As is my habit I pull up the METAR one last time. The TAF has been updated twice in the last half hour. Now it’s looking a little more worrying. I pull up the RADAR and see ugly, ugly colours heading our way.

I’m in a bind. A dilemma. I’m PIC. I should be making the call. I think Bob’s waiting on me to do that. I’m unsure for many reasons. I think about calling flight services….again. I think about texting Bob……again.

I’m not sure if I should bother him though. I hate being needy and I feel like that’s how I’m coming across. This is meant to be my flight.

As I’m pondering my options (really I suspect I’m pondering how to tell people that I’m not going to fly today) Bob texts me with an update that there is a nasty system due to hit at 6:00pm exactly. Coincidentally the same time I’m due to be “wheels up”

One last time I reach out to him. “If it were up to me I wouldn’t fly but am I being overly cautious?”
He reassures me that I’m not.

I cancel.

The air is eerily still, it sits hot and heavy on me, just like my decision not to fly. Wondering if I’ve made the right call, I watch as two 150s from the same flight school roar off into the distance to the east, obviously trying to outrun the weather to the west.

I shake my head and trudge back home.

I honestly don’t have a good handle on making weather calls at the moment. Next post I’ll go through some of the issues I’m struggling with at the moment decision wise.


  1. Personal minimums. If you aren't comfortable with ANYTHING about a flight, don't go. You made the right call. From what I can see in your videos and on here, you are shaping up to be a GREAT pilot. You know when to say no, and that is a skill that too few pilots have.

  2. Saw your video on FlighChops. I agree. Personal minimums are a good move. I get a little weather nervous too and am guilty of canceling many flights. Not ashamed of it. Best thing you can do is make sure you're comfortable with the flight you're about to make.

  3. this time the call was the right one, by the time I was meant to be wheels up, it was monsoon like rain.
    But I can err on the side of too cautious. I'll never be able to expand my comfort level if I don't push the boundaries a little.
    I'm finding that hard to balance