So today I was scheduled for another IFR lesson and the weather presented us with a test of Aeronautical Decision Making (ADM).
This morning I woke to this TAF:
KRDU 081138Z 0812/0912 27006KT P6SM SCT050
FM081400 27011G19KT P6SM BKN050 OVC060
TEMPO 0818/0822 6SM -SHRA FEW040 BKN050 OVC070
FM090300 30006KT P6SM SKC
For the un-initiated, the key factor here is “FM081400 27011G19KT”. This means wind will be 11 knots gusting to 19 knots from 270 degrees. My home aerodrome has runways at 03/21 so we would obviously be taking off of 21 with a right crosswind.
This presents us with a 9.5 knot crosswind and 5.5 knot headwind. No big deal for the SkyHawk that has a 15 knot demonstrated crosswind. Now let’s look at the gust factor. If we take a gust right above the runway we are looking at a 16.5 knot crosswind with a 9.5 knot headwind. This would put us at 1.5 knots above the demonstrated crosswind of the airplane. “GO AROUND!!!!! QUICK!!!”
I know what you’re saying, there are plenty of old and bold pilots that land in crosswind components higher than this with no sweat. You yourself may have landed a plane in a crosswind higher than demonstrated and didn’t even know. This could be due to an unexpected gust, at the last minute on a fairly calm day, that made things a little hairy but all things worked out.
This brings us back to ADM and how important it is to have a good solid grasp on the possible outcomes of a flight. This is a lot harder as a low hour pilot because you don’t know what you don’t know. It takes time and experience to learn how to handle many different weather conditions and what your personal limits can handle.
I come back to a saying that I first heard from our Chief Flight Instructor when I first started flying. A pilot starts his aviation journey with two bags. A full bag of luck and an empty bag of experience. When things start to go sideways in an airplane, pilots can pull answers from these two bags. Eventually luck will run out… we just hope that when it does, we have enough experience to handle the situation.
As the saying goes, “Aviation is one of the few endeavors in which you are given the test before the lesson.” (Also credited to our Chief Flight Instructor)
I talk with as many experienced pilots as I can in order learn from the many years of experience that have come before me. I have a solid understanding that I am a low hour pilot and my experience bag has very little to pull from. That is why even though today was marginal, it is also a lesson in ADM. If I were on my own with no flight instructor, this would have been a definite no go for me. I have a personal crosswind limit of 10 knots right now. The primary reason that I am training for my IFR rating, is to become a safer pilot. A large part of being a safer pilot is having good ADM.
In closing, with the winding gusting to just above the demonstrated crosswind component I could possibly be a test pilot. This information coupled with similar wind conditions over the past few days, suggesting that gusts can be much higher at times than forecast. I decided I don’t want to be a test pilot today!
So today, I am trying to decide: Which one?