January 28, 2011
You have the day off, and it only took a glance outside to know that it may be a good winter day for a short practice flight. There’s an overcast, but it looks fairly high—and there isn’t a breath of wind. The trainer is free for a flight at 1700Z, so you are in business.
A glance out the window is not a weather briefing, however, so now it’s time to examine the details. The most recent aviation routine weather report (METAR) confirms your kitchen-window weather observation:
00000KT 10SM BKN048 OVC060 M16/M18 A3030.
Calm winds. Visibility comfortably above your solo limitations, at 10 miles, and the lowest clouds at 4,800 feet agl. It is a cold day (minus 16 degrees Celsius converts to 3 degrees Fahrenheit), but preheating the engine should help.
But as you scan the latest terminal forecast, you are surprised at the not-so-rosy picture emerging for the time interval that includes your proposed departure time: FM181500 17005KT P6SM OVC020.
Not only does the forecast show that the ceiling is expected to drop, but that ceiling is also expected to thicken from broken to overcast. Visibility—while still good—will be on the way down, too. The lowered ceiling scraps your plans for anything more than a flight in the pattern; that was also a limitation that your flight instructor entered into your logbook for solos.
The next section of the terminal area forecast (TAF) casts the planned flight in an entirely different light: FM181800 18004KT 2SM -SN OVC015 FM182000 16004KT 1SM -SN OVC010. This section tells you that only an hour after your planned launch, there’s an expectation of instrument meteorological conditions with light snow. And it goes downhill from there.
What looked like a good day from the kitchen window can quickly turn into something else. Take nothing for granted; deteriorating weather is the subject of the February 2011 Flight Training’s “ Accident Report.” Better to find out the bad news from the warmth of home than from a cramped cockpit with visual references fading from view or ice forming on the wings.
Are your weather skills as sharp as they could be? Take the Air Safety Institute course WeatherWise: Precipitation and Icing for more useful tips on knowing what the weather has in store.
Got a knowledge test on the horizon? Study on the go with an iPhone or iPad using the Sporty’s Study Buddy application. The program uses three modes—learning, flash card, and test—to help you prepare for the private pilot knowledge test. The app is priced at $9.99. See the website for more information.
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Question: I am very interested in learning to fly but have diabetes. Is it still possible for me to obtain a medical certificate so that I can get my private pilot certificate?
Answer: It is possible, depending on your individual circumstances. The FAA considers how your diabetes is controlled and goes from there. Pilots with a diagnosis of diabetes mellitus controlled by diet and exercise alone are considered to meet the medical standards and are eligible for medical certification under the revised Part 67 medical standards. Medical documentation is required at the time of the FAA medical examination. Use of oral diabetes medication is disqualifying for medical certification under the regulations, but the application will be forwarded to the FAA, which will review the case under the special issuance provisions of the federal aviation regulations. For more, see AOPA's subject report, Endocrine System—Diet and Oral Medication. Individuals with insulin-treated diabetes mellitus may also be considered for certification under the special issuance provisions for a third class medical. See AOPA's subject report, Endocrine System—Diabetes, Insulin Treatment.
Got a question for our technical services staff? E-mail email@example.com or call the Pilot Information Center, 800/872-2672. Don’t forget the online archive of “Final Exam” questions and answers, searchable by keyword or topic.
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