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IFR Fix: The weather windowIFR Fix: The weather window

Right about now, your passengers think you’re quite a pilot. The thin layer of rime ice that appeared so suddenly melted on descent, just as you said it would. When the clouds parted, there like magic was the runway, straight ahead. And evidently it wasn’t necessary for you to "gargle inbound," as the voice on the radio said at one point.

Trusty Uncle, once a pilot himself, was waiting with the SUV when you taxied in. Then it was off to the family compound where hugs—and a strong aura of pie—greeted all weary travelers.

Greetings accomplished, pilots have been known to promptly excuse themselves and make for the den (where the computer is). The slower-than-expected movement of the weather system was a good break today, but what does it mean for tomorrow’s return trip back toward the weather?

It’s too early for more than a general idea, but the weather’s divergence from the forecast is something to keep track of.

Uncertainties connected with conditions for return legs beyond the current forecast period can be the most challenging aspect of planning cross-country trips. Identifying the safest departure window, and not squeezing it shut, is a dynamic process that puts your weather wisdom—don’t confuse this concept with mere ability to read weather data—to the test.

So who can blame you for sneaking off to the computer room while everyone else is playing Frisbee with the dog or taking a post-dinner nap? Veteran passengers learn that you aren’t being a grinch, just a pilot. If you taught them to respect the idea that your decision on a departure time, even a departure day, remains fluid, there’ll be no pressure from that quarter.

The FBO knows your needs (fuel, preheat, etc.) and has promised a rapid response to your call, so that’s covered.  

It was wise to grab your instructor and practice a bit for confidence before the trip. It’s a comfort knowing that you can reach out for advice if necessary.

At your next get-together you will definitely review today’s flight. (Did you miss something with that little ice encounter?) The instrument approach was demanding, with its DME arc (left turns) to final approach (a right turn) at TAROE.

"Bumpy" described the next five miles. But once you reported "crossing GARGL inbound," descended, and broke out into the clear, you could almost smell that pie.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: IFR, Technique, Cross Country

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