In flying one of the most important considerations is the weather. Not only what you see outside right now, but what is forecast to happen. And if you are flying somewhere else, what is the weather doing or going to do en-route, and finally what is the weather going to be like when you arrive at your destination?
This can be done by looking at the new official UK Aviation Weather site. You need to create a login for yourself, and then it is assumed that it is possible to see if someone officially checked the weather on an aviation weather page before they left on a journey and something happened to them en route like trying to fly below cloud and flying into a hill. Just looking at the TV forecast is only a very rough guide, as those do not give the cloud layer heights, or the upper wind strength and direction which is needed for working out the heading to steer to reach your destination. There are other very useful apps that can be obtained for computer, tablet, or phone which can give a rapid picture of the weather. On of my favourites for Apple devices is called AeroWeather, and with that it is possible to check the actual and forecast weather for airfields all over the world, not only in aviation speak, but in plain language. Another app for a guide to wind and cloud for the next 5 days is XCW or XC Weather on your computer. However as pilots we need to check the daily forecast chart for winds and weather and once you have registered this menu is very useful.
Why else is all this so important? For a start we always have to fly in what is called Visual Meteorological Conditions during training. Which simply means we have to be clear of cloud and be able to navigate by looking at the surface. Until advanced training is received, then anyone who is not trained to fly in cloud will probably stay the right way up for less than two minutes before they lose control. And even if they can stay the right way up, then they would need training on how to navigate without seeing the ground, and finally if the weather is bad at the destination, to be able to read, and follow the approach charts that guide pilots to the final navigation aid that brings them to the runway safely. Normally in the worst weather this is an ILS or Instrument Landing System. Modern airliners use this to allow the aircraft to land automatically even in fog, but light aircraft are much more restricted by visibility and cloud base, apart from the strength of any wind across the runway which may prevent a landing as well. And for light aircraft with no de-icing equipment, icing that is formed by flying through cloud when the temperature is less than freezing, can cause an aircraft to be so heavy it could not fly any more. Well that is extreme but you get the point.
Another major consideration, especially during early training is the actual visual conditions. We need to be able to see the horizon in order to orientate ourselves, and to know the attitude of the aircraft and any bank. This can be done above cloud, where, especially in the winter the cloud may form what is like a perfectly flat white sea.
But then we need to be able to get down again, and the ways of doing that are limited, and the minimum height of cloud to be able to do this is about 600 feet at Kemble, and we also need decent visibility to be able to find the runway when we get below cloud. And also in the early stages of flying we do not want too much wind as it can get very bumpy, and if it is across the runway, may prevent us from taking off or landing safely.
Sometimes early students do not appreciate all this, and they may turn up on a lovely sunny day and find the weather is too bad for them to fly as it is very hazy, and it is not possible to see any horizon, and occasionally it can be so bad that it is only possible to see a few miles which is not enough to navigate by. So if you have booked a trial lesson, or early lesson then it is best to check with us before setting out if we have not already called you.