A good pilot is always learning -- how many times have you heard
this old standard throughout your flying career? There is no truer
statement in all of flying (well, with the possible exception of
"there are no old, bold pilots.")
Aero-News has called upon the expertise of Thomas P. Turner,
master CFI and all-around-good-guy, to bring our readers -- and us
-- daily tips to improve our skills as aviators. Some of them, you
may have heard before... but for each of us, there will also be
something we might never have considered before, or something that
didn't "stick" the way it should have the first time we memorized
it for the practical test.
Look for our daily Aero-Tips segments, coming each day to you
through the Aero-News Network.
It's on the first page on the FAA's Aviation
Weather Center (AWC) website. And it provides a wealth
of information for your strategic flight planning.
Note: For the benefit of those who have not
served or studied military doctrine, strategic planning involves a
big-picture overview to identify overall goals, as opposed to
tactical planning which is the process of making decisions
on-the-fly that determine how you achieve those goals. In personal
aviation, strategic planning is the process of determining whether
to fly, and if so at what route and altitude. Tactical planning
would be en route changes as necessary to deviate around weather or
deal with other status as it comes up.
The AWC's opening page gives us three things: locations of icing
and turbulence Pilot reports (PIREPs), and more obvious, the
Categorical Outlook for reporting stations around the "lower 48"
states. On the depiction:
- No colored dot indicates the reporting station is VFR.
- A blue dot indicates the station is reporting Marginal VFR
- A red disc indicates IFR weather.
- A pink (or magenta) dot shows the station in question is
reporting Low IFR conditions.
In a past Aero-Tips I reviewed my concept of Categorical Outlook
Flying™, to make go/no-go/divert decisions
before takeoff and continually in flight. We referenced my
Categorical Outlook Flying™ decision making matrix, which is
posted on my website.
There's a whole lot of strategic information very easily
reviewed simply by looking at this one chart. It's probably not be
a good day to fly into Boston or Shreveport, for instance, during
the valid time of this chart even if you're instrument rated.
Flying west out of Denver might be pretty dicey because of
turbulence, and a flight from San Francisco to Reno, Nevada, would
probably be treacherous because of ice. The AWC's opening page
doesn't tell us everything, but it does tell us when to look deeper
for a flight strategy-and it can quickly tell us when it's a no-go
when conditions are very bad.
Aero-tip of the day: Use the opening page of
the Aviation Weather Center's website to make a first strategic
decision about whether to fly.