“Easy IFR,” Greg’s February, 2014 Flying Carpet column

9-GregBrownFT214_0490eSmw1200Flying Low Ceilings and Rain

We awoke in San Antonio to low ceilings and steady rain. At bedtime last night, a massive stalled cold front curved eastward from El Paso in a great northerly arc to Canada. Today’s forecast called for inches of regional rain, thunderstorms, and flooding.

Following a week touring Texas, Jean and I were eager to return home to Arizona; instead, it appeared we’d be stuck here for days. Futilely, we’d hoped the front would accelerate past during the night, leaving clear skies and tailwinds behind it. Now, resisting the urge to roll over and sleep, I fumbled through a weather briefing. Considering the gloom outside, the news was surprisingly good.

6-GregBrownFT214_2365eSmw1200Yes, the front remained stationary as forecast, but thunderstorms no longer threatened. And while a few stations along our route reported ceilings below 500 feet, most were “easy IFR” at 800-1,500 feet. Finally, the freezing level was high enough to relegate any icing threat above our planned altitudes.

While it meant battling 500 miles of clouds and rain, it was entirely feasible to fly to El Paso on instruments. Beyond there, New Mexico was forecast to clear by afternoon. If so, we’d proceed visually through the mountains to Flagstaff. If not, a lengthy westerly detour would circumvent them IFR. Either way, we had an instrument ticket home!

Read the whole story in this month’s Flying Carpet column, Easy IFR. (Please allow a moment for the article to load.)

Photos: Top left, “Easy IFR” over West Texas.  Above right, Wall mural at San Antonio’s Mi Tierra Restaurant and Bakery.  See more photos.

(This column first appeared in the February, 2014 AOPA Flight Training magazine.)

©2013 Gregory N.Brown

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