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.
As the cold weather chills AOPA’s Headquarters in Frederick, many of us are inside generating new resources for flying clubs.
In my house, every Friday night is “Movie Night.” While the movies are rarely educational (I don’t think I learned anything from the Lego Movie), we look forward to the weekly opportunity to spend time together. Why not use the same concept for your Flying Club (with the addition of education, of course)?
AOPA Flying Club Manager Kelby Ferwerda posted the following on the AOPA Flying Club Facebook Page: “Recently I’ve talked with quite a few Flying Clubs about maintaining social activity through the cold winter months. Some clubs host Holliday Parties, others have Potluck Movie Nights. What does your club do to keep members involved during the chilly months?”
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