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Would you go flying?

Updated: Dec 15, 2022

The weather on 6th January 2022 was poor. Whilst working in the hangar at around 11am, I heard an aero-engine overhead. This surprised me because the visibility was around 800m ( I could barely see the aerodrome boundary), the wind was blowing 25 knots from the south, across the runway and it had been snowing heavily for around 20 minutes. I came out of the hangar to see a Cessna flying a low and tight circuit. The pilot must have been unfamiliar with the aerodrome and unable to see the runway threshold because he overshot it significantly, landing almost at the end of the runway. I am sure the pilot felt that he did not have the option to go-around.

The grass clearway was unobstructed, but it was boggy having suffered persistent rain over the last few weeks. In fact, it was difficult to walk on the clearway, but this ended up benefiting the pilot as the plane decelerated rapidly, ensuring he didn't go through the fence at the end.

Once the plane came to a stop, the pilot couldn't taxi as the aircraft sank into the ground, so he shut it down and walked towards the club house with his companion. He explained that they were flying on a local sortie from a nearby aerodrome when the weather rapidly deteriorated. The aerodrome that they departed from was to the south west, and this was the direction that the weather came from, so they could not go back. The pilot headed for the nearest aerodrome, but the weather caught up with him.

The weather forecast predicted challenging conditions from mid-morning with two occlusions passing over the UK and strong winds from the south west.

Here are the actual weather observations at the aerodrome on the 6th January:

Daily Weather Observations 6th January 2022

The Met Office UK Low-Level Spot Wind Chart (F214) shows the wind at 2,000ft to be out of 200° at 45kts and the outside air temperature to be -1°C.

F214 UK Low-Level Spot Wind Chart supplied by the Met Office

The Met Office F215 Forecast Weather below 10,000ft chart shows two weather fronts moving from west to east.

F215 6th January 2021 Forecast weather below 10000ft (Met Office)

Both of the aerodromes in question are located in area B.

Area B decodes to read:

Surface visibility and weather:

  • 15km visibility with nil weather/light rain,

  • Occasional (widespread on weather fronts) areas of 6km visibility with rain,

  • Isolated (occasional on weather fronts) areas of 3,000m visibility with heavy rain or rain and drizzle,

  • Isolated areas of 800m visibility with snow over land in the north from 1000 zulu,

  • Isolated areas (ocasional in the north from 0900 zulu) of 600m visibility with snow over mountains,

  • Isolated areas of 300m visibility with heavy snow over mountains from 0900 zulu,

  • Mountain wave with a maximum vertical speed of 800fpm at 9,000ft with moderate or severe turbulence,

  • Occasional hill fog.


  • Broken/overcast stratocumulus, alto cumulus and Also tratus with moderate icing (isolated areas of severe icing from 2,000ft-7,000ft and up to levels above 10,000ft in the north east) with moderate turbulence between 2,000ft-4,000ft and above 10,000ft,

  • Isolated areas of overcast nimbostratus with moderate icing (severe icing 2,000ft / 7,000ft) with moderate turbulence between 2,000ft-3,000ft and up to levels above 10,000ft in the weather fronts,

  • Isolated (occasional in the west) areas of scattered or broken stratus cloud with bases from 600ft and tops up to 1,000ft/2,000ft.

Freezing level:

  • 2,000ft to 4,000ft in the north east,

  • 5,000ft to 7,000ft in the south west.

It is a good idea to fly towards the approaching weather on a local flight. That way, you can always turn back and reach your departure aerodrome safely.

If a pilot chooses to fly in the opposite direction, keeping the weather behind them, they may well find that it has arrived at their departure aerodrome preventing them from returning. Even worse, if the pilot chooses to fly away from the weather towards the coast, they may find that they have no choice but to turn back into the weather.

It is best to fly towards (but not into) the bad weather. This leaves the option to turn back.
It is best to fly towards (but not into) the bad weather. This leaves the option to turn back.

The pilot said that he had checked the weather forecast earlier in the day. He felt that the conditions were suitable for his local flight and thought he would make it back to base in time before the poor weather arrived. He returned a few days later to collect the aircraft.

All pilots assess risk differently. What are your personal minimums? How do you make a weather decision? Would you have flown on this day?

Are you a student pilot? Learn how to interpret weather charts with confidence and study for the nine written exams with Bitesize Online Ground School.


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