Monday, February 12, 2007

This is the weather forecast for tomorrow morning's destination:

FM1400 06020G32KT 1SM -SN BLSN OVC005
FM2000 04020G30KT 3SM BLSN OVC003

What that tells me is that from 9am (Toronto time) the winds will be out of the east at 20 mph gusting to 35 mph with light snow and blowing snow, reducing the visibility to 1 mile and lowering the height of the clouds to 500 feet above ground. From 11am - 3pm (Toronto time) there will be temporary periods when the snow gets moderately heavy and the visibility is reduced to 1/2 a mile, with the cloud bases only 200 feet above ground. When we leave my destination back to Toronto, the weather is predicted to be pretty much the same, with relatively strong winds, blowing snow, visibilities 1 - 3 miles, and a cloud layer around 300 feet above ground. When we are scheduled to arrive back in Toronto, the weather is also predicted to be snowy and blizzard-y, with similar weather.

If the forecast turns out correct and we get dumped on, it certainly doesn't mean the trip would be unsafe. If it's not safe, we won't go - it's that simple. My passengers trust me to get them from point A to point B in one piece and I take that responsibility very, very seriously. Fortunately, snow isn't dangerous to a business jet while in flight, it's just a pain in the ass to have to look through a heavy snowshower while lining up to land on a runway. Equally fortunately, my employers are great about not pressing the weather, and when tomorrow morning rolls around if it looks like safety would be an issue, I will not hesitate to pull the plug on the trip.

1/2 mile visibility and a cloud ceiling of 200 feet above ground is really no big deal when you're in a corporate jet with decent avionics and using the autopilot to land at a major airport, but it still looks like I'm gonna earn my money.

Having said this, when I wake up tomorrow morning the forecast will have changed, either a little or a lot - it's pretty much impossible to predict exactly how the weather will be 24 hours in advance. But I believe the fine people in the Canadian and US weather centers when they say we are gonna get some serious snow tomorrow.


Windsor said...

Isnt winter flying fun?

Anonymous said...

I am sooo glad that your caution is the strongest voice in this agenda.

david said...

I woke up this morning under a perfectly blue sky in Ottawa and had to get to New Jersey (which also had a nice clearish sky), but rather than paying $120 for gas in my Warrior and landing a couple of miles from my destination, I decided to donate $1,200 (or at least, my customer did) to fly me here in a Continental Embraer, so that I could take a very long cab ride across northern New Jersey.

The 50+ kt winds aloft, cold front, and lake-effect snow across the middle of my route gave me pause. I knew that I could almost certainly find a way through between layers, zig-zagging around weather and dealing with the turbulence — I've done it often enough before, sometimes in worse — but I'm thinking that maybe I've used up most of my get-out-of-jail-free cards, and it's time to stop taking a single-engine piston plane places it just doesn't belong.

In situations like this, I'm grateful that I can pay to have a professional crew worry about the weather and turbulence for me, while I just sit back and plan my meeting or read a book. I'm sure your passengers feel something along the same lines. Thanks.