Diverting in the real world

A week or so ago, I recorded a video that goes along with a feature coming your way in the July issue of Flight Training. The topic is diverting. That is to say, the topic is about diverting to a different airport. If you get the digital edition, you’ll see me describe a long-ago diversion I made when I couldn’t find the airport. (True story.)

So we all know how art imitates life, or is it vice versa? Last week I pointed my Cherokee 140 west, intending to land in Arkansas. I was headed to Gaston’s fly-in resort (3M0) to research this beautiful fishing destination for another article, which you’ll read in the September issue. I wound up diverting more than once because of weather–thunderstorms, the bane of summertime flying.

I tend to plan routes so that I cross over airports. Sometimes it adds time to my flight–a half-hour at most. But it pays dividends in terms of peace of mind. Airports make good, easy-to-find checkpoints. They also serve as reminders to switch fuel tanks on the Cherokee (which I try to do when overflying an airport). This strategy proved particularly helpful on the way west, because I simply diverted to an airport already on my route. (Hello, Clark Regional in southern Indiana!)

Headed back to Maryland a few days later, I had such a great tailwind that I chose a more direct route, hoping to make some good time. And it worked–for a while. Then a line of storms marched toward me. (Hello, Morgantown Municipal in West Virginia!)

If I’d flown the airport-to-airport route, I’d have spared myself some sweaty palms trying to pick out a suitable place to hang out for a bit. So the next time I plan a long, long cross-country, I’m sticking to what works.  Have you diverted? Tell us about it.

–Jill Tallman

Tags: , , , ,

  • Hank

    I’ve diverted due to weather, but with a sectional open in my lap and my direct-path marked and highlighted, it was pretty easy. Just look for an airport between where I was and where the sky ahead was black. All the information necessary was right there, but I opened the Flight Guide mainly for runway information anyway.

    One time I had to set down in Roanoke, VA because the weather was getting too ugly to push into WV. Circling down through a hole in the clouds requires knowing where you are on the sectional, as there are both hills and antennas to watch for. Keep your sectional out, cross-tune VORs from time to time, and it’s not really a big deal.

  • David

    I had the pleasure of a double divert one time. I was on a return trip to Florida after taking a friend Mississippi to pick up a new plane he had just bought. I was still a fairly new private pilot building cross-country time for my commercial ticket. So there I was, watching the sky get darker and darker in front of me and I figured it was time to put it down and wait. I picked an airport from my sectional that wasn’t too far off course and notified center that I was changing plans and they gave me a vector to the new field. Once I arrived to where it should have been, I couldn’t find it for the life of me. Center advised me that it was 1 mile at my 9 o’clock and as I circled around the only thing there was a column of heavy rain. The weather was closing in around me fast. As I came around in my circle still looking for this airport, I noticed that straight west, and only straight west, there was still friendly looking sky. I leveled out and proceeded that direction. A look at the sectional showed another airport about 20 miles away and situated right along a highway that I already had in sight. 15 minutes later I was touching down. A couple hours inside and a cup of coffee or two later and I was able to head home in clear skies. Amazing how it cleared up.