(September 2011) It was the Friday before Christmas, and the pilot-owner of a Piper Saratoga was eager to get home for a party. At 2:30 in the afternoon he called Flight Service to brief a flight from College Park, Maryland, to Akron-Canton Airport (CAK) in Ohio, 240 nm distant. He said he hoped to take off as early as 3, and so the briefer asked whether he wanted a full standard briefing or just the highlights.
“I don’t want to waste your time,” said the pilot, transferring to the briefer a concern that was more likely his own. “Let’s figure out if this sounds like a suicide mission or not, and then we’ll go from there.”
The briefing ended up lasting 20 minutes. The difficulty was a trough lying over the destination and, between him and it, an occluded front. A large area of IFR and marginal VFR weather blanketed northern Ohio and much of Pennsylvania, with patches of snow, freezing rain and drizzle. The temperature profile was complicated, with a couple of inversions, a freezing level at 4,000 feet and a high likelihood of snow and moderate rime icing in clouds up to 7,500 feet. Cloud tops were mostly around 6,500, and winds were out of the west, 45 knots at 4,500 feet and more than 50 knots at 7,000. Low-level wind shear was probable.
Although the forecast for CAK was not bad — 800 overcast and five miles — it was likely to worsen somewhat as the evening wore on. On the other hand, the weather system was moving rapidly eastward. The National Weather Service area forecast discussion issued at Cleveland, 40 miles northwest of CAK, during the afternoon and available online called for precipitation to end later in the evening, with visibilities becoming unrestricted overnight. Furthermore, there was better weather a little way to the south, and so the pilot would have an escape route if he needed one.
He weighed the pros and cons, and he decided to go. He was off the ground at 3:31.
The en route portion of the flight, at 6,000 feet, was uneventful. The pilot reported some “moderate chop” in response to a flight conditions request from Cleveland Center. He did not report any icing.
At 5:36 he was nearing his destination, handled by the CAK approach controller (AC).
Here is the transcript:
AC — N9299N, fly heading 340, radar vectors ILS Runway 23 final approach course.
99N — 340 for 99N.
AC — N9299N, descend and maintain 3,200.
99N — 99N out of 6,000 for 3,200. Any pireps of icing below six?
AC — Negative, sir, no reports of icing in the area. Advise me if you encounter any.
99N — 99N, thank you.