The winter of 2010-2011 will go down as one of the harshest, coldest and snowiest winters on record. It was, in a word, brutal. And that was on a good day. Much of general aviation was severely hindered or just shut down. At the airlines, the mantra is that if it is at all possible to go, you go. So we went, but I think I set a personal record for trips to the deice pad and for winter related delays and cancellations. I have never been a fan of cold weather, which I define as anything less than 80 degrees. You won’t find anyone more anxious than me for summer.
So, what does the spring and summer mean in terms of flying? In the last couple of weeks, I’ve been able to see large areas of flooding as the snow melts and the ground becomes saturated with water from all of the rain we’ve seen this spring. If you are keeping an eye out for emergency landing sites, you should keep in mind that the ground may be much softer than you can determine, which could lead to a nose-over event in what would normally be a perfect farmer’s field (well, perfect, that is, if you are not the farmer on whose field you are landing).
I am not necessarily suggesting that you change all of your flight planning based on the potential for soggy fields, but pilots and instructors should pay more attention to other off-airport landing alternatives, especially long stretches of road. This, of course, means paying heed to the possibility of hard-to-see wires, but such is life. As long as the rain, especially in the eastern half of the country, continues to fall, soft ground is going to be an issue.
Summer also means humidity and haze. The kind of haze that settles in for days or weeks at a time is not usually a problem except for trying to navigate VFR. It’s less of an issue for thunderstorms, but it can make it difficult to see any storms along your route of flight. Bone up on your basic instrument skills, or better yet, work toward the actual rating. Humidity, on the other hand, can not only make you miserable, but it can and will negatively affect the performance of both you and your airplane. It affects you by being a distraction and causing fatigue, and your airplane by causing hits on maximum payload and useable runway lengths.
But, summer flying also means your airplane can take you places that you really want to go, like the beach or to visit family. Plan carefully, fly smartly, and enjoy the warm weather while you can.