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3 Reasons Why Fall Flying Is Better Than Summer Flying


Fewer thunderstorms and less turbulence mean more days in the air for you. Here are the advantages of fall weather flying in a GA aircraft.

1) Fewer Bumps

In summer, the earth's surface is exposed to the most direct sunlight. The ground absorbs the heat, then releases it back into the atmosphere, causing warm air to rise. This rising air is displaced by cooler, sinking air, causing turbulence.

With less hot, buoyant air in the fall, you can expect smoother departures, cruises, and arrivals.

In addition to less turbulence, fall means the end of thunderstorms for much of the US. With less solar energy heating the earth, the atmosphere starts to become more stable.

2) Lower Density Altitude

The lower temperatures of fall don't just mean a more comfortable preflight, but also more performance out of your aircraft. Density altitude is the altitude your aircraft performs at. Temperature, field elevation, and humidity all contribute to density altitude (Temperature having the greatest effect, and humidity having the least effect).

Having a lower density altitude means your aircraft will have a shorter takeoff ground roll and increased climb performance, compared to a hot day with high DA.

3) Clearing Weather

Dry arctic air makes its way south, pushing moisture out with it. Behind these cold fronts, the cool air sinks to the surface helping stabilize the atmosphere reducing the number of thunderstorms.


But, Fall Flying Isn't All Roses...

Not everything related to flying gets better in the fall. Here are two of the more challenging parts of fall flying.

1) Shifting Jetstream

The jetstream shifts from north and south as the seasons change. As the jetstream moves south for the winter, it intensifies, often increasing surface winds causing gusty days.

2) Radiation Fog

Clear skies and calm nights make great flying, but one drawback is that these are also the perfect conditions for the formation of radiation fog.

Warmer air holds more moisture than cold air. In the afternoon the sun radiates heat into the earth's surface, but when the sun sets, the air starts to cool and condense causing dew and fog to form. While fog might be a downer for VFR flights, you might get a chance to log some actual instrument flight time!

What's your favorite season to fly? Let us know in the comments below.

Nicolas Shelton

Nicolas is a private pilot from Southern California. He is currently studying at Purdue University, where he is working on advanced pilot ratings. You can reach him at

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