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Training Tip: A skeptical receptionTraining Tip: A skeptical reception

You are up and out early to fly a solo cross-country flight that represents a milestone (not a barrier) to pass on the way to earning your pilot certificate.

Photo by Mike Fizer.

Only thing is, the time is 1255Z, the windsock is dead limp, and there isn’t a chance that the thick fog covering the field will yield to clear skies, a nine-knot westerly breeze, and “P6SM” by 1300Z as your briefing foretold.

Now it’s 1330Z. The coffee in your travel mug is cold, the ceiling is still down, and what’s worse, the pilot who scheduled to use the trainer after you has shown up early (figuring you must have canceled).

Should you?

Already you feel the pinch of time pressure, and you haven’t even taken off yet. In this kind of scenario, it’s at least a good idea to set a deadline for a no-go decision, rather than risk launching on a flight that subjects you to unreasonable and distracting pressures.

Cheer up because things could be worse. You’re on the ground waiting for fog to clear so you can depart. Less fortunate pilots have found themselves airborne, nervously watching fog form below them, either because it developed earlier than forecast, or because they took off much too late after ground delays.

Always build healthy skepticism into your evaluation of the forecasts you use for flight planning. Allow for fronts or precip to come and go at other-than-predicted times; for ceilings to be lower; and, as the colder season comes along, for outside air temperatures that could make flying in precip hazardous.

Practice working with weather information, even when you are not flying, and with some experience you will learn to peg the forecasts that are inherently less reliable than others.

Even weather professionals continue to learn that lesson, despite advanced technology and limitless data points—as you know if you have recently turned on the television and watched as a TV meteorologist who had been deployed to a scene of an expected weather event had to explain why the real action struck at another location.

Sometimes it’s been better to be wrong: Hurricane Irma was forecast to be the “costliest U.S. storm on record,” but the estimates plunged when landfall occurred slightly off the expected track.

Small comfort concerning today’s flight, but a lesson to help fend off disappointments or dangerous weather encounters in the future.

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: Flight Training, Student
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