A cold front barreled through the area but is now speeding away. Heavy rain-soaked snow crusts the ground—and aircraft—as the temperature plummets in today’s clear, cold air. Bright sunshine lifts the spirits after two days of fog, sleet, and rain. Will you be able to fly today?
Checking weather after the soggy system soaked the scene, you are encouraged to see that visual conditions are returning. But the weather data contains details—captured in such places as the area forecast’s (FA) categorical outlook—urging caution. It says: “OTLK … VFR WND.”
Why is that a key detail to consider?
“The contraction ‘WND’ in the outlook signifies forecast winds of 20 knots or greater,” explains the section of AOPA’s Handbook for Pilots on weather briefing sources. Remember that the outlook period is a six-hour period that follows the FA’s 12-hour forecast period. The item tells you that strong winds will continue, even as overall weather improves.
The latest hourly weather observation (METAR) also was a mixed message. It confirmed the presence of strong surface winds (29013G25KT) and offered the abbreviated remark PRESRR (pressure rising rapidly).
The cause of the dynamic conditions faced by this pilot in northern New England is easy to pinpoint on the surface analysis chart shown above. The pilot would observe changing conditions as the low departs to the northeast, and a strong pressure gradient continues to exert influence over the area by generating strong, gradually diminishing winds. The pressure gradient appears as tightly spaced isobars—lines of constant pressure—on the chart.
Locally, your terminal aerodrome forecast (TAF) predicts how the weather conditions are expected to manifest themselves in the short term. The pilot’s home airport had this forecast, predicting that it would not be until the forecast’s concluding period (FM090300) that the wild post-frontal weather would subside:
081256Z 0813/0912 32020G30KT 4SM -SN SCT005 OVC025 FM081300 31020G30KT P6SM -RASN BKN025 FM081500 30020G35KT P6SM SCT015 FM081700 20020G35KT P6SM SKC FM082300 27015G25KT P6SM SKC FM090300 23007KT P6SM SKC
A lot of detail to absorb? With experience, you will eventually recognize that the basic trends make a familiar pattern that repeats itself regularly as fronts arrive and depart. That makes flight planning easier, and helps you understand how the myriad details of weather find their way into the big picture.
Flight Training News
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University students could land a first officer job with Atlantic Southeast Airlines and possibly an interview with Delta Air Lines under an agreement announced Dec. 12. Aviation science students in their junior year will be evaluated for possible employment with ASA. They must complete a number of requirements, including maintaining a minimum grade point average and completing ERAU’s advanced jet training courses as well as having attained private through commercial and certificated flight instructor-instrument certificates, and a multiengine rating. Once they have flown with ASA and accumulated experience, qualified candidates would be offered an interview with Delta.
Piper delivers twin trainers to China
Piper Aircraft is delivering the last of seven twin-engine Seminoles to China this month. The aircraft are headed to the Civil Aviation Flight University of China, Guanghan, Sichuan Province. Piper declined to disclose the fleet purchase price, but said that the retail value of the seven aircraft is nearly $4.2 million. The university trains civil aviation pilots as well as technicians of other civil aviation specialties.
Take the guesswork out of risk assessment
Pilots make decisions about risk all the time. Most are pretty clear-cut, but there will always be “gray areas” to contend with—which is why the Air Safety Institute developed an innovative application to help. The ASI Flight Risk Evaluator is a two-part online course that covers the basics of risk management, and then lets you input the details of an upcoming flight and get an assessment of the potential risks. Give it a try >>
K-State Salina expands helicopter training
Kansas State University at Salina and a private rotary-wing flight school are teaming up to provide full-time helicopter training to aviation students. Universal Helicopters brings two Robinson R22 Beta IIs and a R44 Raven II to the partnership, plus four full-time flight instructors. Students can begin flying the aircraft when the spring 2012 semester begins in January, and will be able to earn all ratings and certificates as rotary-wing pilots if they choose.
Maryland flight school offers T-34B trainer
Trident Aircraft at Bay Bridge Airport in Stevensville, Md., added a Beechcraft T-34B Mentor to its fleet of rental aircraft. The retractable-gear military trainer is available for commercial training and can be checked out for solo flight. The airplane joins a rental fleet that features a Cirrus SR20; a Beechcraft Duchess; a Super Decathlon; Cessna 182, 172, 152, and 150; and a Remos GX light sport aircraft.
Once you’ve acquired your private pilot certificate, you might be considering a plunge into instrument training. If so, AOPA has plenty of information for the instrument student. As you consider flying in clouds, you now have to know where the freezing level is and what could happen if you fly into icing conditions. The Air Safety Institute’s Aircraft Icing Safety Advisor contains life-saving tips and solid advice to help you understand this hazard. Download the advisor >>
Did you know that student pilots who join AOPA are three times more likely to complete their flight training? Membership includes unlimited access to aviation information by phone (800/USA-AOPA, weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time) or from Flight Training Online or AOPA Online. If you're not already a member, join today and get the pilot’s edge. Login information is available online.
Ask ATC: Progressive taxi
You reviewed the taxiway diagram for your destination towered airport, and all looked manageable—if somewhat more intricate than the layout at your home base. But when you land and turn off the active runway, all of a sudden the many taxiways and intersecting runways seem overwhelming. What can you do? Help is as close as your push-to-talk button. Ask the controller for a “progressive taxi.” Watch the AOPA Live® video to understand from the controller’s perspective what a valuable service this is.
United Continental Holdings Inc. announced Nov. 30 that it had received FAA approval for a single operating certificate. While significant from an operational policies and procedures perspective, the move does not change how customers interact with the airline. Customers of United and Continental will continue to shop for flights, obtain seat assignments, and check flight status on each carrier's respective website until the company migrates to a single passenger service system in the first quarter of 2012. The two carriers went through a rigorous 18-month process of aligning operating policies and procedures to obtain the single operating certificate.
Horizon Air pilots to receive wage increase
Horizon Air and its pilots, represented by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters APA Local 1224, announced Dec. 1 that the neutral arbitrator responsible for setting the 2012-2013 wage structure has ruled that there should be a 2.8 percent increase for all Horizon Air pilots in 2012 and an additional 1.2 percent increase for first officers in 2013, as outlined in the proposal by the union. In November 2010, Horizon's pilots ratified their current five-year contract, which becomes amendable December 2015. It includes a clause specifying that wages will be reexamined by the company and the union twice, once in 2011 and again in 2013.
Any pilot who uses radar services or visits an airport that accommodates business aircraft will eventually hear a King Air pilot on the radio. King Airs are a family of Beechcraft twin turboprops that have plied the skies since 1964. “Small” ones weigh about 10,000 pounds; newer models like the King Air 350 go 15,000 pounds and cruise at about 300 knots true airspeed. Some King Airs have a T-tail (although not the one pictured). With practice you will be able to spot the distinctive King Airs in the pattern or on the ramp.
‘Helicopter Maneuvers Manual’ from ASA
The Helicopter Maneuvers Manual, now available from ASA, is a step-by-step illustrated guide to performing all helicopter flight operations. Written by Ryan Dale, the guide includes full-color illustrations that are intended to help pilots visualize the concepts learned in flight training and incorporate the practical test standards into each maneuver. The softcover version, with 104 pages, is priced at $14.95. An e-book version is available for $14.95. See the website for ordering information.
Note: Products listed have not been evaluated by ePilot editors unless otherwise noted. AOPA assumes no responsibility for products or services listed or for claims or actions by manufacturers or vendors.
Waco ornament celebrates holiday, aviation spirit
Get into the holiday spirit this year with a new limited-edition AOPA Holiday Ornament. The second in AOPA’s line of commemorative ornaments features an aircraft that embodies the spirit of aviation, a beautiful 1940 Waco. The Waco, offering its nostalgic glimpse of aviation times gone by, is a selection that is certain to inspire you to share your most cherished aviation memories. Sure to add charm to any tree, the AOPA Holiday Ornament is now available at the AOPA Store. Every purchase made at the AOPA Store benefits AOPA’s work preserving and protecting your freedom to fly.
Bank of America helps a member’s dream come true
“Every kid’s dream is to fly an airplane,” said AOPA member Tom Johnson. Johnson wasn’t able to act on his dream until he was in his mid-40s. After earning his private pilot certificate and renting aircraft, Johnson decided that the time was right to buy his own airplane. AOPA Aircraft Financing and Debbie Edwards at Bank of America were with him each step of the purchasing process. Read more >>
Seniority and ‘juniority’
In this week’s Flight Training blog, Chip Wright explains how just a few days and the date of a class can have a huge impact on a pilot’s ability to score routes and schedules—or even hang onto a job.
Reason No. 151
That’s the number of dogs David Kenny has flown to foster or forever homes in his Piper Arrow. Kenny, a volunteer for Pilots ’n Paws, has been transporting rescued dogs since 2009 and recounts his latest mission in Reporting Points. Read more >>
AOPA Career Opportunities
Ever dream of turning your passion for aviation into a career? We’re looking for a senior government analyst, director of corporate finance, manager of flight training programs, online product manager, AOPA Live producer/videojournalist, associate editor–Web/ ePilot, and aviation technical specialist. To learn more about other AOPA career opportunities, visit AOPA Online.
AVIATION EVENTS & WEATHER