Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Fortunate Timing

When N631S and I departed KVKX for our northbound trip to Connecticut on Monday the forecast for KBDR, the destination airport, was quite reasonable. It called for a light southwesterly breeze, good visibility and scattered high clouds. There was the possibility of periods of light rain but these were expected to be over by 8:00 AM.

KBDR 230949Z 2310/2406 23006KT P6SM SCT120 BKN250
       TEMPO 2310/2312 6SM -SHRA BKN035 
       FM231500 22009KT P6SM SCT050 BKN140
       TEMPO 2318/2322 6SM TSRA SCT025 BKN040CB 
       FM232200 22010KT P6SM VCSH BKN050 BKN120 
       FM240000 23005KT P6SM SCT050 BKN150= 
But things were a bit more complicated than that. There was also a Convective SIGMET in effect for thunderstorms with tops above 40,000 feet. They were at that time between Albany and Poughkeepsie, headed southeast. Toward Bridgeport.

I decided that since the weather on my intended route was good and the only question involved what the situation on arrival would be, it made sense to get underway and to work out options and alternates en route.

N631S was off the ground at 11Z. As soon as we were level at 7,000 feet, our final cruising altitude, I had a look at what the NEXRAD display would tell me. As you see at left, the first lot of stormy weather was passing KBDR. It was moving southeast at about 20 knots.
I panned the NEXRAD display on the GPS396 to the north and west and saw a second, larger area of weather coming along behind the first. It appeared that these storms would be influencing the area I was headed toward for some time to come. Without a doubt, it was time for some planning.

I took note that there was a clear area about ten miles wide between the areas of weather. With fortunate timing, the gap might accommodate my flight path from JFK to Bridgeport. I'd press on, and see if my luck was good.

Plan 'B' would be to land early and wait out the weather. There were a couple of places available for that. Miller Air Park in Toms River, NJ (KMJX) would work as would Belmar (KBLM). I'd watch the evolving weather picture and pick a spot to land if that seemed advisable.

Plan 'C' would be in effect if the situation kept looking good long enough to get me into the New York Class 'B' airspace and then quickly became unacceptable. Then I'd need to get New York Approach to help with weather avoidance vectors to an airport of refuge on Long Island or back in New Jersey.

With that thought process completed, I pressed on. With about 40 minutes to go, the first batch of weather had moved on and dissipated. It was no longer a factor. The second batch was moving toward the coast. The leading edge of the precipitation was about 20 miles from KBDR and the heavier returns were about 10 miles further out. I had already passed KMJX and decided to press on past KBLM. At this point I felt I had a good chance of reaching KBDR ahead of any significant weather.
Crossing JFK, and with 18 minutes to go, there was still about 10 miles between KBDR and even light rain. This was looking quite good. I felt that I had enough margin, even considering the well known NEXRAD latency issues and in case of need I could stay to the south and divert to either New Haven (KHVN) or Groton (KGON).

Conditions on the ground at KBDR were still good. New York Approach cleared me direct to KBDR and with less than 10 minutes left in the trip, I relaxed. I flew past the field, turned back to land on Runway 24 and taxied to parking. As I was putting the cover on N631S, light rain began.


Cedarglen said...

Hi Frank. Great post, but I'm thinking more along the lines of Good Planning! Best to you, -C.

Frank Van Haste said...

Hi, Craig!

Wasn't it Branch Rickey who said, "Luck is the residue of design"?



Alan Cockrell said...

Good planning and decision making. Wish my 767 were as well equipped electronically as 31S.

Frank Van Haste said...

Captain Cockrell:

Thanks for your kind words!

I recall when GPS was first getting popular for GA, a friend's daughter who was a reserve FO for UAL surprised me by saying that they were still driving 727's using VORs.

I guess you folks get the bells & whistles only when the bean-counters can prove that they add to the bottom line.

Looking forward here to the rest of the "NORDO" story...