Im usually fairly well prepared to tackle whatever airborne challenge I might face. Then there was a day in early March when I felt woefully unprepared. I got through it, but Im still licking my wounds.

The mission was supposed to be a short hop to a nearby airport, pick up a fourth and re-launch for some airborne headset evaluations on behalf of sister publication

Pre-Flight Preparation


Aviation Consumer. The weather was forecast to be broken layers at 1500 and 5000 feet, with good visibility between them. Walking out the door for the first-thing flight, I notice the early-morning stars had been replaced by a low overcast; an IFR clearance was definitely necessary.

Soon, the three of us were on top of the lower layer, motoring off to our destination. But the plot thickened: Our destinations ceiling and visibility were down the tubes and the only glideslope was out of service. Not wanting to waste fuel, we turned around and headed back to our departure point, not far behind us. After a quick series of button pushes and leafing through the plates, we were set up for the approach and, after flying the full procedure, found the runway right where we left it.

After an hour of checking weather, our destination started coming up, so we launched again. That flight ended with a localizer approach to minimums, picking up the runway at the last possible instant before going missed. Another few minutes on the ground and we were aloft again, climbing through the now-bumpy layer to get on top and cruise around in VMC. We managed to get back home after another IFR descent, ending with a visual approach, followed by an easy-but-bumpy VFR flight back to the car.

The tach showed only three hours total when the airplane was back in the hangar that afternoon, but I felt like Id been through the wringer.

The bottom line is I wasnt prepared for all the IFR work that morning. Overnight, the weather turned much worse than the VFR that had been forecast and my before-dawn weather checking didnt pick up all of it. It was the first time in a long time Id been caught that flat-footed and I paid the price. It wont happen again soon.


North America-based pilots are coming out of one of the worst winters in a handful of years, with lots of active weather over the past few months. Soon, green, leafy things will be spouting all over the place: Spring has sprung, and that means more aviating.

It also means a layer of rust may have accumulated on your skills and your airplane. But were here to help. One article this month tackles some of the things you may want to consider for you and your plane. Another explains the decisions you need to consider when deferring any maintenance. Then we explore thunderstorms, self-critiquing your IFR skills and the dangers of maneuvering flight.

Go fly. The time is right and youve earned it.

– Jeb Burnside


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