March 11, 2009
By Jill W. Tallman
We’ve all heard the expression about March: It comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. Why does March trigger strong winds in some parts of the country? With the change of seasons—the advent of spring—weather fronts are passing through, and the contrast between these fronts is greater. An influx of warmer air means temperature gradients between air masses contrast greatly, and that means wind.
Gusty, blustery conditions could be a factor on your next flight. But you can get up to speed on handling winds with AOPA’s help. To get the bigger weather picture, start with the AOPA Air Safety Foundation’s Weather Wise: Air Masses and Fronts interactive course. By understanding the forces that create winds, a pilot can anticipate changes, avoid potentially hazardous conditions, and even use pressure gradients to plan a cross-country flight so as to maximize tailwinds.
Even if you’re remaining within the pattern, you’ll want to brush up on takeoffs and landings in gusty conditions. Review the foundation’s Mastering Takeoffs and Landings Safety Advisor for management tips and convenient rules of thumb. Here’s one: Landing in gusty conditions? Add half the gust factor to your airspeed as a margin of safety.
Of course, windy conditions can persist throughout the year and take different forms, such as wind shear or turbulence. All will test a pilot’s measure of skill. Be sure to review the articles found in the Windy Flight Operations aviation subject report compiled by AOPA’s Pilot Information Center. These articles discuss the wind’s impact on all phases of flight—with plenty of attention paid to that perennial favorite, the crosswind—and include lots of guidance from experienced pilots.
AOPA Technical Editor Jill W. Tallman is an instrument-rated private pilot who owns a Piper Cherokee 140.
A new FAA policy on obstructive sleep apnea that addresses many of the concerns raised by AOPA is scheduled to take effect March 2.
AOPA and the National Business Aviation Association have jointly filed an amicus, or friend of the court, brief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals as part of the ongoing legal battle over the future of Santa Monica Municipal Airport.
AOPA worked with the flight training industry and FAA to quickly resolve a problem that suddenly put many rating applications on hold.
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