Monday, June 1, 2009

There Are Two Kinds of Weather...

In aviation, there are two kinds of weather: Bad Weather and No Weather. With a map that looked like this at 7 AM on Friday morning, it was clearly not going to be a "no weather" day in the Northeast:
I filed the usual "preferred route" (preferred by the ATC computer, not by me) from KBDR west to Sparta then south to Solberg, west to East Texas (near Allentown), south to Lancaster, then Baltimore then home. But around 4 or 5 in the afternoon, the radar picture was looking like this:
That top lobe of precipitation (with the nice red and orange markings) had a SIGMET wrapped around it and I was pretty certain I didn't want to go there. So I filed a new flight plan, starting at KBDR then going to Albany, Wilkes Barre, way out west to Selingrove, PA, then back to Lancaster and thereafter as previously planned. The idea was to first get around that northernmost bit of nastiness and then build in a big loop to allow time for the weather in the Baltimore/DC area to clear to the east.

So I got to the airport, pre-flighted N631S, and called for my clearance. I got: Radar vectors to Sparta, V188 to Wilkes-Barre, thereafter cleared as filed. Not what I wanted to hear, as the last radar picture I'd seen (above) made the Sparta, NJ option a bit unpalatable. I decided to accept the clearance and if it started to take me where I didn't want to go I'd say "Unable!" and negotiate a better deal.

But once airborne and headed west, things started looking better. The picture below shows the echoes at 5:30 PM, just a few minutes after I departed KBDR. You can see that there is an attenuated region developing between the areas of stronger echoes, just about where I needed to be going. So far, so good...
By 6 PM, the path between the heavy weather areas was open and comfortable to transit. Clearly, I was going to be able to get behind the northern parts of this frontal activity.
Sure enough, here is a screen shot of the XM weather display on the Garmin GPSmap 396 at 8 minutes before 6 PM. I am right over Danbury (KDXR) and looking down the road toward Sparta (SAX) the coast is clear.
Of course, that left the little problem of getting into the DC area. At 6 PM, when everything was looking good up north, this is what the Sterling, VA NEXRAD facility was painting:
I got to Wilkes-Barre about 6:15 PM and the controller there asked if I wanted to join V93 there and go straight south to Lancaster, omitting the "delaying loop" out to Selingrove to the west. I had been watching the trailing edge of that patch of nastiness down to the south and it seemed like there was a good chance of it clearing out by the time I made it down there around 8 PM. So, I accepted the excellent controller's offer and headed down toward Lancaster. By 7 PM (probably somewhere around Reading, PA) the radar picture down in DC was improving:
And here, below, is the 8 PM situation. All of the really nasty stuff is over to the east, beating up the DelMarVa peninsula and the path from Pennsylvania over Baltimore and into the east side of DC looked very nice:
Here is another screen from the GPSmap 396 at 5 minutes before 8 PM. That's a pretty intense patch at the upper left, but it's a good 50 miles away. I've just cleared BAL and am headed down to OTT (the Nottingham VOR) where I can make a right turn into KVKX. It's nice when a plan comes together.
To wrap up, here is the FlightAware track for the whole 2.9 hour flight:
And in case you're wondering, the flight back up to KBDR this morning was smooth, fast and totally uneventful. Not good blogging material, but a nice way to travel.

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