Don’t be a fair weather flyer

3 min read

Any pilot with an available airplane can’t pass up a severe clear, less than 5 kts forecast. Why would you? There’s breakfast to be eaten, landscapes to be seen, and avgas to be burned. Sounds like the perfect morning really. The morning flight has many benefits – the best of which is the weather. Typically it’s less bumpy and windy which makes for a pleasant flight. Also, there’s less traffic. I’ve been flying under these conditions for my last dozen hours or so. Life is good, call me a fair weather flyer.

It was on my latest flight that I got a little more wind and turbulence than I’m used to. On my flight from Sporty’s (I69) to Portsmouth, OH (PMH), I got bounced around the entire TRIP and the wind began to gust up to 15 kts. My C172 with nothing but a trim wheel and my abilities got a workout that flight. By no means did I feel unsafe or under-prepared for the flight, but I got a little wake up call about how easy I’ve been making it on myself with flying conditions.

The flight back was nearly the same weather conditions but with a little more cloud cover. Naturally, I adjusted my route to avoid any possible IMC situations. The modified route was perhaps a blessing in disguise since the river route back along the Ohio River is well worth the 10 extra minutes of flight time.

Getting back into I69 was a little unsettling given the high volume of traffic. However, with a full traffic pattern and lots of inbound traffic, again I found myself realizing how spoiled I’ve been making myself with these early morning flights before the pattern fills up. Thankfully like every time before, training kicks in and the 360 degree turns for spacing were a fine option on this day.

So what’s my takeaway from this day of flying? Well, I reminded myself of the power and importance of training and how important it is to rely on a solid foundation of knowledge in addition to experiences. What would I have done had the clouds filled in on my southern route? What if the winds picked up beyond 15kts? What if some real weather had moved in? These are the real questions I found myself asking as I make my notations in my logbook. 

First, I always try to stay up-to-date with the latest training material. To build on my weather knowledge I used the online course Aviation Weather – A Pilot’s Guide. It’s new from Sporty’s and has hours of practical weather information for VFR and IFR pilots alike. It includes segments from meteorologist Scott Dimmich as well as inflight video from Matt Guthmiller. I would surmise this program as weather training for the pilots of today. They cover useful modern topics like ADS-B weather, reading between the lines of PIREPs, using EFB apps for weather, and new weather tools that the books can’t stay up to date on if they tried. This course is available in the Pilot Training App and online here

Second, I’m seeking diversity in my flying. Breaking the routine of my standard flight is going to be a fun exercise for me. No matter if you’re building hours or just flying for fun, don’t get in a rut. That makes for stagnant flying skills and a false sense of security that you’re staying sharp. Find somewhere new to fly or finally go on that dream trip you’ve been thinking about forever. Before you do, make sure your training knowledge is up to date with the latest information available. After all, a good pilot is always learning.