Monday, January 29, 2024

What's Up LeRoy Cook

 Suggested Banner: Grounded Again


“Been getting' much flyin' in?” was the usual clever greeting during the fog last week. Everyone was glad for the 30-degree warmup, after the sub-zero unpleasantness, but who knew stagnant low clouds would settle in when the Arctic airmass gave way to moist Gulf air? According to the few pilot reports posted, sunshine prevailed atop the fog, at only 1200 feet above the surface.


If you've been around pilots very long, you'll hear them talking about the weather being “IFR” or “VFR”, with VFR being good and IFR being bad. Technically, they're not expressing themselves precisely; VFR and IFR refers to the operating rules, as “visual flight rules.” Good flying weather should be termed VMC, for “visual meteorological conditions.” When pilots respond to a traffic alert from air traffic control with “We're IMC” they are saying “I can't see anything, I'm in the clouds.”


Nevertheless, common vernacular is VFR/IFR. There are degrees of operational difficulty that modify the terms. We generally regard a cloud ceiling of 3000 feet above ground level, or flight visibility of 5 miles or more, as simply VFR, with little concern for control or navigation. If either of those parameters has a lesser value, the weather is termed “marginal VFR” as long as it isn't below what's stipulated to require adherence to instrument-flight rules. MVFR is a cause for concern, as one may encounter pockets of IFR weather hiding in the murkiness.


IFR conditions are generally regarded as a ceiling of less than 1000 feet or visibility below 3 miles, pretty challenging stuff. Special training, extra equipment and following specific procedures are the only way to survive such “blind flying.” And then there's “low IFR”, with really bad weather of less than 500 feet of ceiling or under a mile of visibility. Last week, we had widespread reports of less than a half-mile of viz and less than 200 feet of ceiling, barely enough for the sharpest airline crews to operate. On Friday, when Harrisonville's automated broadcast reported 10 miles of visibility and 1100 feet of ceiling, I sallied forth to relieve grounded boredom; the local ceiling turned out to be 700 feet, making it a short flight.


Fear not, dear hearts, spring is definitely coming—eventually. At least it's warm enough to putter around the hangar, tightening up the bolts that hold the airplane's door on and other routine maintenance. The more eyes watching the better, like the controller that noticed a taxiing Delta Airlines 757 shed a nosegear tire and wheel last Thursday. Use these times to check over the old bird.


Our question for last week wanted to know the U.S. Air Force's designation for its Boeing 737 VIP transports, the ones used for mid-level bureaucrats and general staff. They are called C-20's, as in the “cargo” category. The Air Force One Boeing 747's are VC-25A's.  For next time, what's a “Category III” approach and landing? You can send your answers to [email protected].


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