Go and no-go decision making

(Yes, I know it’s not Friday. That’s because on Friday I was busy… flying. Not flying myself, you understand; rather, I was being flown by the fine folks at Delta from SFO to ATL and then on to HSV.)

I had already planned my weekend around the trip to Alabama to see the boys, but early Thursday morning received some bad news: my Uncle Edgar had passed away in Houma, Louisiana, and his funeral service would be first thing Monday morning. That seemed like a great opportunity to get some cross-country time; I could rent a 172 from the Redstone flying club, fly KHUA-KHUM in about 3.5 hours, and easily make both the Sunday night wake and the Monday service. I jumped online, reserved an aircraft, and went about my business… at least until I saw the weather.

AviationWeather.gov showed a strong chance of rain and scattered thunderstorms Sunday in Huntsville. So did the Weather Channel, but the WAAY-TV forecast called for scattered light rain. The local forecast for Houma for my arrival time looked good. What to do? I had a few options:

  • Adjust my flight time to get out of town before the bad weather. Of course, if I ran into any delays, that could be a problem.
  • Wait and see how the weather developed, planning on flying if there was no convective weather developing or forecasting.
  • Call Delta and book a flight to New Orleans.

As much as I wanted to fly down there myself, I chose option #3. That turned out to be exactly the right move, because the weather across southern Louisiana deteriorated Sunday morning. Here’s what the weather looks like right now, as I sit comfortably aboard my Delta flight. All that green crap in the lower right corner of the map has been forming and blowing up from the Gulf into north Alabama over the last 36 hours or so—but the forecast I saw on Thursday didn’t predict that.


It might have been possible for me to adjust my departure time either earlier or later and still make the flight safely. However, the old adage that “it’s better to be down here wishing you were up there than up there wishing you were down here” certainly applies. At this time of year, convective weather can be unpredictable, and tackling it at night as a non-instrument-rated pilot in an aircraft without onboard weather display or radar would be foolish.

As WOPR said, sometimes the only winning move is not to play. So I sat this flight out, and I’ll build my cross-country time another day.


Filed under aviation

3 responses to “Go and no-go decision making

  1. Glenn Fincher

    Saw you ahead of me on the delayed HSV-ATL flight, but didn’t get a chance to say hi! Sorry to hear about your uncle. We need to catch up in HSV some weekend.

    • robichaux

      Dang, I should get in the habit of looking for you in the gate area! I’ll let you know before my next trip– it would be great to see you someplace besides an airport.

  2. Pingback: PIREP: my first “real” cross-country | Paul's Down-Home Page

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