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Would You Go? Ceilings Are 1900' With 6SM Visibility And Light Rain

Making go/no-go decisions isn't always easy. Take a look at this scenario, and make your decision.

Wikipedia

The Flight Scenario

You're an instrument rated private pilot, but not instrument current, and need to fly in your Piper Cherokee from Tulsa (KTUL) to Clinton (KCCA) for a family member's wedding reception. The plane is in perfect condition and certified for IFR. It's midday, and conditions to the West are VFR, but become progressively more marginal (MVFR) along your route to Clinton.

You've flown the route a few times before. The small hills of the Upper Buffalo Wilderness provide your only terrain consideration, rising to a maximum of approximately 1000' AGL. Two thin bands of light rain showers cross your route (they're slowly moving West to East) and there's no way to check the conditions beneath. There's no convective activity and no risk of icing.

Boldmethod

Red dots indicate IFR conditions, blue dots indicate MVFR conditions, and green dots indicate VFR conditions.

Diverting to the north isn't possible due to widespread IFR conditions around Bentonville. Flying to the south means flying into heavier rain showers. The TAF at Tulsa remains VFR, but there's no TAF at or near Clinton. Here's the current weather...

KTUL METAR (Departure): KTUL 111953Z 3508KT 310V020 10SM FEW020 OVC200 10/19 A3002 RMK AO2 SLP240 T00001089

KFYV METAR (Enroute Mid-Point): KFYV 111953Z 3507KT 6SM OVC019 05/06 A3017 RMK AO2 SLP229 T10501056

KCCA METAR (Destination): KCCA 112015Z AUTO 29013KT 10SM OVC019 01/03 A3017 RMK AO2

Boldmethod

Your Legal Requirements

Visual Meteorological Conditions (VMC) are determined by time of day, altitude, and airspace. Your route will be flown during the middle of the day. Depending on how high you want to fly, you'll either be flying in Class G or Class E airspace for the majority of the flight. These are your daytime VFR weather minimums:

  • Class G (Below 1,200' AGL): 1SM of Visibility, Clear of Clouds.
  • Class E (Under 10,000' MSL): 3SM of Visibility + 500' Below, 1,000' Above, and 2,000' Horizontally Clear of Clouds.

The weather stations along your route indicate that current conditions exceed legal requirements. But how can you be sure?

mararie

Considerations

You're instrument rated and your plane is equipped to fly in instrument conditions, but the trip must be completed under VFR because you're not instrument current. There's no great way to analyze the conditions below the two bands of light rain along your route. There's also a and area of rising terrain midway through the route, but the hills only rise about a thousand feet.

You'd hate to miss your family member's wedding reception because you're supposed to give a speech. You've always considered yourself a safe, cautious pilot, and you know you have the instrument skills to stay safe if conditions begin to drop. Because you've flown the route before, you're familiar with the terrain and airports nearby. You don't think this flight will result in "scud running," because ceilings are still relatively high. The flight has you stumped because the weather exceeds legal requirements, but you won't be able to fly as high as you'd like.

Neil Jansen

What Would You Do?

There's a lot to take into account here, and there's no "correct" answer. The safest option will always be to stay on the ground - there's risk associated with taking off in any airplane. Should you depart and see how things go, and turn around if conditions underneath the rain showers gets worse? We'll leave this one up to you...

Would you go? Why wouldn't you? What would it take for you to make a go/no-go decision? Is there any missing information you need to make the best decision?

Tell us in the comments below, or email us your answer.


Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and commercial pilot for Mokulele Airlines. In addition to multi-engine and instrument ratings, he holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525). He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018. He's the author of the articles, quizzes and lists you love to read every week. You can reach Swayne at swayne@boldmethod.com, and follow his flying adventures at http://www.swaynemartin.com.

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