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Would You Go? Scattered Storms Are Building On Either Side Of Your Route

Summer weather will be here before you know it, and warm-weather storms are already starting to pop up. Take a look at this scenario, and tell us your go/no-go decision.

Boldmethod

The Flight Scenario

You're a private pilot, not instrument rated, and need to fly your Cessna C182 from the Tri-State Airport (KHTS) in Huntington, West Virginia to Madison, Indiana (KIMS). The plane is in great shape and just recently came out of annual inspection.

You're taking the 140-mile flight back home after getting an avionics upgrade at KHTS.

Weather for hundreds of miles on either side of your route contains scattered thunderstorms, with many growing in intensity as the afternoon progresses. Most of the airports around the area are reporting VFR, and you find yourself in a large gap before storms roll into the Huntington, WV area. A storm to the southwest of your destination is approaching, but you may be able to get in before it covers the area.

ForeFlight

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

Weather Affecting Your Route

The nearest TAF for your destination is 37 miles away in Louisville, KY (KSDF), and it won't be much help in determining weather at your destination due to numerous scattered thunderstorms. Here's the current weather...

  • KHTS METAR (Departure): KHTS 042151Z 34004KT 10SM SCT110 24/21 A2983 RMK AO2 LTG DSNT E RAE35 TSB02E17 SLP093 P0003 T02390211
  • KFGX METAR (Enroute Mid-Point): KFGX 042135Z AUTO 34004KT 7SM -RA SCT055 BKN065 OVC090 20/20 A2988 RMK AO2 T02040203
  • KIOB METAR (Currently IFR, South Of Your Route): KIOB 042135Z AUTO 32004KT 1 3/4SM SCT022 BKN031 OVC040 21/20 A2987 RMK AO2 P0026 PWINO
  • KIMS METAR (Destination): KIMS 042135Z AUTO 16004KT 7SM SCT026 SCT031 BKN038 23/22 A2983 RMK AO1

ForeFlight

Along the last 1/3 of your route, a diversion to either Cincinnati (to your North) or Lexington (to your South) will be an option. While the storms don't appear to be a large squall line, the radar summary shows tops in your area exceeding 50,000 feet. While they aren't directly over your route, there are some very large storms forming.

FAA AWC

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. To keep out of clouds, if you follow a straight-line route, you'll be flying below 5,000' MSL 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 with scattered storms passing between stations, how can you be sure?

Brian White

Other Considerations

Outside of scattered storms, the weather appears clear and VFR conditions prevail elsewhere. It's hard to tell exactly how long gaps will last as storms build quickly throughout the afternoon. Fortunately, there are no significant obstacles or terrain along your route.

You're hoping to get the plane home tonight, and the flight is only 1.3-hours.

You've always considered yourself a safe, cautious pilot, and you know you have the skills to make a diversion if you need to. Based on the cloud bases, 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 on paper clearly exceeds legal requirements, but you don't want to get caught between rapidly building storms.

There's also no realistic way to "wait it out" for an hour or two because scattered storms surround you for 200 miles. If you decide to wait, you'll be spending the night in KHTS and flying home tomorrow.

ForeFlight

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, because there's risk associated with taking off in any airplane. Should you depart and see how things go, and divert if storms nearby close in quickly? We'll leave this one up to you, the PIC...

Would you go? Tell us your decision by sending us an email to scenarios@boldmethod.com or leave your comment below to tell us what your go/no-go decision is, and why.

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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