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Training Tip: A marginal decisionTraining Tip: A marginal decision

It’s early Sunday morning, and a pilot in the Dallas area is planning to make an approximately 180-nautical-mile southbound flight under VFR to San Marcos Regional Airport, where people will be gathered to celebrate the landing and lavish their admiration on the airplane, which will be based at the field.

Photo by Christopher Rose.

There’s no rush to depart, considering the weather at the destination: 041356Z 16010KT 2 1/2SM BR OVC004 19/18 A3005.

What are prospects for later in the day?

Not so simple to determine. There is no terminal area forecast for the destination airport, but TAFs are issued for airports to its northeast and southwest.

You’d nearly overfly the airport to the northeast of the destination, so that makes a good place to begin gathering information.

Its current conditions are no better than the destination’s. Low clouds are forecast for much of the day, but by 3 p.m.—about three and a half hours before sunset, a detail you checked for a complete picture—the visibility is forecast at greater than six miles, with an overcast at 3,500 feet. By 8 p.m., however, it’s down to 2,000 overcast, with lower conditions expected later.

Assuming acceptable en route conditions, does that suggest there’s an afternoon window for flying in to receive your hero’s welcome?

Trying not to let your bias toward “go” affect your judgment, you turn to the weather data for the airport southwest of your destination. There too, current conditions are low.

Here is the TAF for that airport: 041129Z 0412/0518 15009KT 5SM BR BKN006 OVC015 FM041700 16010KT 4SM BR OVC015 FM042100 17010KT P6SM OVC035 FM050000 15012KT P6SM BKN022 FM050200 14012KT P6SM BKN022 FM050800 16009KT 5SM BR OVC009.

What’s your go/no-go decision? How would you rate your level of confidence in the decision you reached?

Knowing what professional pilots in a real-life scenario decided that day for the long-awaited final leg of their flight to deliver the historic Douglas C–47 That’s All, Brother from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, to its new home base with the Commemorative Air Force in San Marcos may help you answer that question.

“Due to marginal weather today, we are postponing the flight from Dallas to San Marcos until Tuesday,” they informed their supporters and friends in a Facebook post.

Two days later the beloved old airplane was safely tucked into a San Marcos hangar by members of the CAF’s Central Texas Wing, as this video records.

Do you have confidence in your ability to evaluate weather? Discuss the issue at

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: Pilot Weather Briefing Services, Flight Training, Flight Planning
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