by David Miller
How do you handle unforecast adverse departure aviation forecast? Do you fret? Cuss? Kick the dog?
Two recent trips tell the story. A November-morning departure from KGUC (Gunnison, CO) to KADS (Addison, TX) found weather below Gunnison’s landing minimums as we arrived at the FBO. Light snow to boot. Although Gunnison does not have a terminal forecast, the nearest larger airport, KMTJ (Montrose), had better than 5,000 and 5 with a good outlook. KTEX (Telluride) featured visibilities less than a mile, 300 overcast in snow. Some nice folks in the waiting area were trying to get there in a Cessna 340.
Although we Part 91 folks can legally depart in just about any weather, I have always found that rule suspect. And, whereas a large metropolitan area will have lots of departure alternates, mountainous airports like KGUC don’t offer that option. As I paced, I envisioned an engine failure right after V1 and a single-engine climb in icing conditions for an ILS to runway 6. Or a sixty-mile trip to Montrose with smoke in the cockpit.
Then, Telluride issued a NOTAM advising that their only runway was closed due to snow. The nice folks in the 340 called off their trip. I paced a little more. Patty and I boarded the 4X4 and headed back up the mountain for lunch. I asked the guys in the FBO to call me if the weather came up to 5,000 and 5. A nice comfortable number for me in the mountains.
Three hours later, in sunshine, we were off to Dallas.
Two weeks later, a greater challenge. The departure weather from KOGD (Ogden, UT) called for ceilings of 3,000 feet, visibilities of greater than 6 miles in light rain with a temperature of 5 degrees C. As we drove from Park City to the airport in heavy snow, I wanted to pace. Instead, I squirmed in my seat.
The ATIS said, “Due to rapidly changing conditions, contact ground control for the latest weather.”
Arriving at the airport, we found visibilities of 1 1/4 with light rain and snow mix, temps of +1 C and 800 feet broken, 2,000 overcast. At least I had the forethought to put the CJ1+ in the hanger. I paced the ramp and found nothing frozen. Light to moderate icing was reported by several aircraft on the climb out of Salt Lake City. I preflighted, picked up my clearance via a handheld, and boarded the passengers, all in the dry hanger. I coordinated with the tug driver so as to have minimal ramp time in the adverse weather, all of which was liquid.
“November 1865 Charlie, will you be ready at the end of 03?” queried the tower. “I will need a few moments to heat up the wings,” came my reply. No more time for pacing or squirming. “Six-Five Charlie, after departure, turn left to a heading of 240 and do not exceed 180 knots until the turn. We would appreciate a base report.”
Power up. Pitot, wing, windshield, engine, and tail deice on. Off we go. Solid IMC all the way to the tops at FL310.
I never did have time to call back with the base report. I was pacing too much.