Navigating the Clouds

With the upcoming cooler weather now is a good time to start to think about all that may be on the horizon with all the nasties that can catch you out. There used to be a rule of thumb for the aviation forecast – if it was longer than a page then don’t bother.

Now with the introduction of GAF’s and other add-ons the weather can still be a little bit of a mission but there are a lot of good resources out there to help. Starting with Airservices themselves, not only do they have PDF’s available for education but videos too on their page and via their YouTube channel on how to decode the weather itself.

A lot of pilots tend to get worried at the first signs of cloud or rain (the old fair-weather pilots) but quite often this can make for some of the most fun flying! My advice don’t cancel the flight immediately. Often low cloud and showers aren’t widespread, there’s plenty of opportunity to go flying around them, besides the old window weather report, consider the following additional resources before you call to cancel the flight.

Jandakot ATIS and Perth AWS phone numbers – live weather seeing what it’s like at the field.

BOM weather radar and, the weather radar is great to see where the showers are (or aren’t) and Windy will give you a good indication of wind at altitude as well as a whole heap of other features.

Then of course there is the good old GAF, whilst sometimes daunting when decoded you will often see that the worst-case scenario doesn’t apply for your flight and the office will always err on the side of caution and tell you the worst case.

There are two bits of gold I often tell people about, the first is the general met forecast, two down from where you clicked area briefing! Select YPPH and not only do you get an in depth look over the next 48-72 hours but also a plain English breakdown too. Second, when in doubt have a look at the bottom left of your GAF printout! The aviation forecaster is always available to discuss any concerns you may have. There you can ask questions like “Exactly what time is that front due to pass over Perth?” You may still have another few hours of nice flying before it hits.

With the inclement weather coming I would encourage anybody that is inside their flight review window and hesitant about the weather, to use this as an opportunity to go fly with the safety net of an instructor so you’re then confident enough to be able to do it yourself. We all think about that clear day to take people up in summer but it can often be so bumpy, now you can take them on the smoothest flight you’ve ever been on you just have to navigate a few clouds! Until next time, safe flying.