Saturday, April 17, 2010

Summer Wx Already?

And it was just last Tuesday that I was dealing with the freezing level at 5,000 feet and snow en route and other wintry fun stuff! And last evening, N631S and I found ourselves deviating to avoid convective weather over eastern Pennsylvania. What happened to spring?

Departing Bridgeport (KBDR) a little before 21Z, we found the weather we were expecting. Overcast at about 2,500 feet MSL, significant headwinds from the west, and areas of light-to-moderate precipitation. And indeed, the slog over to Sparta (SAX) took quite some time, mostly at ground speeds of 100 to 105 knots (with true airspeed about 138 knots).

After turning the corner at SAX the question was, "When to ask for direct LANNA?" The idea being to keep the area of (yellow) moderate precip off the right wingtip. And, there was an area of heavy weather near Allentown that bore watching.

The turn toward LANNA worked well, but the cell of severe weather near KABE was threatening. I requested a 20 degree left deviation from the Allentown Approach controller soon after passing LANNA, and found a few bumps on the way over to the FLOAT intersection (just above Reading (KRDG).

I'd had a very useful conversation with a young Lockheed-Martin Flight Service briefer at about 1830Z (I assess his youth based mostly on some of his vocabulary choices) wherein my attention had been drawn (full points, young man!) to developing convective weather between Pittsburgh and Altoona. Given the time that would elapse between that very good briefing and my proposed departure, that patch of weather would bear watching.

And sure enough, there it was about 30 nm west of my track, moving east at about 40 knots (image at left, click to enlarge). As N631S and I made our way down to Lancaster (LRP) we listened to folks playing "dodge the cell" on approaches to Harrisburg. For my purposes, it looked like there would be a clear lane from LRP down to BAL. Sometimes I'd rather be lucky than good!

Passing LRP I requested (and got) "direct BAL" and the remainder of the flight was uneventful. Conditions were suitable for the visual approach to KVKX with winds calm at the field.

Reflecting on the flight, if I'd had to depart about a half-hour later it would have been very dicey dealing with that frontal line of convective weather. The backup plan would likely have been to plead with ATC for a routing down V16 over New Jersey - although we all know how much they like to do that.

Here, courtesy of FlightAware.com, is the track for the entire flight, with the weather depicted for about the time N631S and I were just south of Allentown.

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