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Would You Go? IFR Cross Country Into Low Ceilings And Scattered Storms

Making go/no-go decisions isn't always easy. Take a look at this scenario, make your decision, and tell us what you'd do at the end of the scenario...

Boldmethod

The Flight Scenario

You're a commercially rated instrument pilot flying a Cirrus SR22T from KPGV Greenville, NC to W31 Lunenburg County, VA. Due to a storm system moving through the area and low ceilings at your destination, you need to file an IFR flight plan. You've got a business meeting and don't have enough time to drive instead of fly.

With storms building near Greenville, you have to depart now to make it out through a gap in the weather before flying through a band of light to moderate rain enroute to Lunenburg. You can't deviate around the band of rain and scattered storms, which spans for 150 miles in either direction. On the other side of the rain, there's a large precipitation-free gap for 100 miles to the North. W31 is currently indicating LIFR conditions, but you can easily divert towards KRIC Richmond, VA if needed.

It's a short 35-minute, 93-mile flight, and ForeFlight recommends the following IFR routing. This should keep you clear of the worst weather.

Boldmethod/ForeFlight

Pink dots indicate LIFR conditions, red dots indicate IFR conditions, blue dots indicate MVFR conditions, and green dots indicate VFR conditions.

Here's the current weather along the route:

  • KPGV METAR (Departure): 152115Z AUTO 20005KT 10SM SCT038 28/23 A2983 RMK AO2
  • KIXA METAR (Enroute Mid-Point): 152115Z AUTO RMK AO2 PWINO PNO... Weather isn't be reported. The AWOS might be down.
  • KW31 METAR (Destination): 152115Z AUTO 02006KT 10SM OVC004 21/21 A2989 RMK AO1 T02120212
  • KRIC METAR (Alternate): 152154Z 05010KT 10SM BKN009 BKN012 OVC025 23/22 A2989 RMK AO2 RAE10 SLP126 P0001 T02330217 $

Boldmethod/ForeFlight

Destination Airport Weather And Approach Options

The tough part of this cross country is the weather reported at W31. While the visibility is over 10 miles, the ceilings are reported overcast at only 400 feet. W31 has two RNAV circling approaches, and neither will get you down below the clouds, at least right now. Keep in mind, W31 has only one runway (02/20) which is 3,000 feet long and 50 feet wide.

The RNAV (GPS)-A into Lunenburg County is going to be your best bet. It's closely aligned with Runway 02, which is favorable due to the winds. The MDA only takes you down to 474' AGL. If the clouds stay at 400 feet AGL, it's going to be a total guess as to whether or not you'll break out of the clouds and get a visual reference of the runway environment.

FAA

IFR Alternate Requirements

If the weather at your destination isn't at least 3 SM of visibility and 2000' AGL ceilings from 1 hour before to 1 hour after your ETA, you need to file an alternate. In this case, you definitely need to file an alternate because W31 is reporting overcast clouds at 400 feet, and it's a short 35-minute flight away. Plus, with no TAF, you have to rely on the graphical area forecast. The GFA indicates prevalent IFR conditions throughout the day.

Under IFR (day or night), you'll need enough fuel to fly to your intended destination, fly from the destination to the alternate (if required), and fly for an additional 45 minutes at normal cruise speed (minimum).

Boldmethod

Choosing Your Alternate

Just 50 miles to the Northeast of W31 you'll find KRIC Richmond International Airport. With multiple ILS approaches, you'll have no problem getting in. For your alternate airport to meet the requirements of FAR 91.169, the weather conditions at the ETA must meet or exceed:

  • If a usable precision approach is available: 600' ceilings AND 2 SM of visibility.
  • If only a non-precision approach is useable: 800' AND 2 SM of visibility.
  • If no instrument approaches are available: Descent from the MEA and landing must be conducted under basic VFR.

Since Richmond has usable ILS approaches available and the forecasted ceiling is OVC008 with 4SM of visibility, you can legally file KRIC as your alternate. Remember, you don't have to fly to the filed alternate. If there's a better alternate during your flight, you can choose that one.

Boldmethod/ForeFlight

Other Considerations

You're fully instrument current/proficient and the low weather doesn't break personal minimums. With storms building, time is of the essence. You know this is going to be a bumpy flight, but there's currently no convective activity or heavy/extreme rain directly along your route. Your aircraft is equipped with XM satellite radar information, so you can keep an eye on the weather. But you also acknowledge that the data is delayed, in some cases up to 15 minutes or more.

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. Should you depart and see how things go enroute and on approach, and divert to Richmond if conditions get worse? We'll leave this one up to you...

Boldmethod

What's Your Decision?

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?

Make your decision, then email us your go/no-go decision and reasoning behind it to: scenarios@boldmethod.com


Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and an Embraer 145 First Officer for a regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018, holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525), and is a former pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He's the author of articles, quizzes and lists on Boldmethod every week. You can reach Swayne at swayne@boldmethod.com, and follow his flying adventures on his YouTube Channel.

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