Bad Weather and Flying near Endicott, NY and Towanda, PA

Poor weather flyingNiagara Falls

Can you fly in the clouds?

Before departing Tri Cities Airport (CZG), Endicott, NY to Niagara Falls International, NY, I checked the weather.  This was a day-before planned trip and I looked out west to find a slow-moving low-pressure system over Wisconsin.  The trip day, it was a beautiful day to fly VFR, like a long sky ride from Tri Cities airport in Endicott, NY, but for practice I filed and flew IFR.  We were in positive radar control the entire way, and once near the Falls, I requested clearance to fly over the Falls, and over the Canadian side, to enjoy the view.  On the ground, we took the Maid of the Mist tour, and ventured to Goat Island.  Then, I thought I heard thunder in the distance.  A quick weather check and we were back at the airport for a no-kidding IFR return flight to Endicott, NY. The frontal system had picked up a little speed and the squaw line was approaching.  During the cab ride back to the airport, Flight Service (800-WX-BRIEF) updated me with a weather briefing and I filed over the phone for an earlier than originally-planned departure time.  We got out of Niagara International ahead of the storm but went right into the clouds.  Luckily, I routinely practice IFR (foggles and a safety pilot), so now I had the opportunity to fly IFR for real!  It was an uneventful flight and we popped out into VFR conditions after about 30 minutes.  Landing at the Mothership (Tri Cities Airport, Endicott, NY) was like a sky ride return.  The winds were light but right down the runway.  Picture perfect day, mostly VMC conditions but mixed with a little IMC.  Mission complete, but how do aviators live to fly another day?

When does flight planning start?

Several days before my trip, I'm checking the weather.  Where do you look at weather?  I typically look out west during the winter, and during the summer months I look mostly southwest.  What's there that I need to watch? Are storms brewing and dumping rain?  As the time nears for my trip, I'm looking for my contingency plan "Plan B."  Plan B can include driving, flying commercial, not going, or postponing flying. 

What is your skill level and how can your plane help you make the trip? There's a difference between VFR and IFR flying and a difference between VMC and IMC.  I enjoy being able to see the ground while flying but it isn't necessary for me to remain on the ground if I can file and fly IFR.  That's the next question--how often do you practice flying IFR? Are you current?  Is your aircraft current? These are essential questions to ask AND to answer prior to making your flight. 

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