I was excited to do some flying today since I didn’t do any yesterday. This morning was dull, gray and dreary sort of day and quite cold with a temperature of -6 degrees Celsius. However it wasn’t snowing or raining, but I could see that it was foggy and suspected if we would be flying today or not. Then I thought if weren’t going to fly today then Tim would have called and told me that visibility was poor so we won’t be flying. As I drove along listening to the news, I heard he weather report and it said that within the next hour or so we would be getting freezing rain. It was almost 8.00 am and I thought we could at least get an hour’s flying done, especially if we stayed in the pattern and practiced takeoffs and landings. As I reached close to my school I could see the green and green light of the civilian beacon rotating on top of the tower at the airport. I knew then that we were probably below VFR minimum requirements for flying.
When I reached school I stepped out of the car and could hear the crunching of yesterdays’ snow beneath my feet. Yes, we got about an inch or two of snow yesterday. I saw Tim already seated chatting with Aaron, one of the mechanics. I greeted everyone and began to sign in when Tim said, “I don’t think we’ll fly today due to the weather being bad and visibility being so poor”. “Yes I saw the beacon on the tower” I replied and Tim smiled and said “Yep, so we’ll do some Ground School training. You’ll need to know these things for the pre-solo exam with Sarah”. But before we started, Tim checked the weather once again on http://www.aviationweather.gov/ and below is the information we saw after entering the codes for Crystal Airport (KMIC) and Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport (KMSP). We entered the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport do obtain the Terminal Area Forecast (TAF), since Crystal Airport is too small to release any TAF information. TAF information is good for within a radius of 5 miles from the airport, but Crystal airport is sufficiently close enough for this information to be useful for us, said Tim.
Aviation Digital Data Service (ADDS)
Output produced by TAFs from (1408 UTC 22 January 2012) found at http://www.aviationweather.gov/adds/tafs/
KMIC 221353Z 15011KT 3SM BR OVC013 M06/M08 A2963 RMK AO2 SLP04 T10611083 KMSP 221353Z 16014G18KT 7SM OVC013 M06/M09 A2965 RMK A02 SLP055 T10611089
KMSP 221259Z 2213/2318 15014KT P6SM OVC015 FM221800 13011KT 5SM BR OVC013 TEMPO 2218/2221 3SM -FZDZ BR OVC008 FM222100 12010KT 4SM -FZDZ BR OVC007
There were another three similar lines below the last one shown above. Here’s a brief explanation of each line:
KMIC 221353Z 15011KT 3SM BR OVC013 M06/M08 A2963 RMK AO2 SLP04 T10611083
The above line states that this weather information is for Crystal Airport whose code is: KMIC
The next number 221353Z states that this information is for the 22nd day of the month (today is 22nd of January) at the time of 1353 Zulu. Zulu is the name given to the Universal Coordinated Tim often known as UTC and it’s measured from the Meridian line that goes through Greenwich in London, UK. Since Minnesota is in the Central Time zone of the US, it is 6 hours behind the time in Greenwich or in London. All times are measured according to Zulu time so that everyone is at one standard time around the world when a given time is stated in Zulu. They merely have to add or subtract the number of hours from the Meridian to get their local time. So in this case 1353 means 53 minutes to 2 o’clock, but this is Zulu time, and if we subtract 6 hours from this we get 7.53 am local time. So this weather report was produced at 7.53 am.
15011KT – This informs us that the wind direction is 150 degrees i.e. wind is coming in from a South Easterly direction, and 11KT means the speed of the wind is 11 knots.
3SM – Visibility is 3 statute miles.
BR – means Broke Clouds
OVC013 – means Overcast at 1300 ft AGL (Above Ground Level), and to get MSL (We must add our field elevation of 900ft for Crystal Airport to get, 2,200 ft MSL.
M06/M08 – Temperature is Minus 6 and will do down to Minus 8.
A2963 – Altimeter (i.e. Air pressure) is 29.63″ of Mercury.
RMK – Is short for Remarks and contains any extra or clarifying information relating to the weather. In this case A02 follows RMK.
A02 – Is a type of precipitation discriminator. It tells us that this is an automated weather observation by an AWOS/ASOS installation with a precipitation discriminator. Had it indicated A01 it would have meant that the installation is unable to discriminate the different types of precipitation.
SLP047 – Sea Level Pressure of 1047 millibars.
T10611083 – This tells us the exact temperature and exact dew point. The 1 immediately after the T indicates its minus. So the temperature is -6.11 and dew point is -8.3.
The second line that begins with KMSP is similar information for the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport with the exception of:
16014G18KT – Means the wind is coming in at an angle of 160 degrees at 14 knots gusting to 18 knots.
Also the first two lines indicate the weather as it is NOW. The lines that follow i.e. the third line beginning with KMSP, tell us the weather forecast i.e. what they think the weather is going to be within a given time period. So regarding the third line:
KMSP 221259Z 2213/2318 15014KT P6SM OVC015
KMSP – Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport Code
221259Z – This report is for the 22nd day of the month produced at 1259 Zulu i.e. subtracting 6 hours to get 6.59 am local time.
2213/2318 – From the 22nd day of the month at 1300 hours / to 23 rd day of the month at 1800 hours.
15014KT – Winds are expected to be coming in from an angle of 150 degrees at a speed of 14 knots.
P6SM – Visibility is more than 6 statute miles.
OVC015 – Overcast with a ceiling of 1500 feet.
Well I think I’ll stop there, I’m sure you get the idea as to how Aviation weather is given and interpreted. This was good revision for me, and then after this Tim went through some other information such as:
1. Which instruments are contained in the 6 pack i.e. Altimeter, Turn Coordinator, the Vertical Speed Indicator, Airspeed Indicator, Artificial Horizon Indicator, Heading Indicator. How these instruments work and which one’s through the Pitot-Static and Gyroscopic systems.
2. What is a stall and how one gets into and out of a stall.
3. What is a spin and how one gets into and out of a spin.
4. What are Parasite and Induced drag and how these can be used to find the ideal glide speed?
By the time Tim finished explaining all this, it was 10.00 am and as I was leaving to go home, Tim reminded me (about my headphones that I had borrowed last week from the Air & Lake store) to call the store, but before he could finish, I told him that I returned the headphones. I told him that they were a great pair of headphones and those were the ones I wanted, but I was going to buy them as a gift for myself when I do my first solo flight. He smiled and said, “Yes, that’s a good idea!” I thanked him for showing me the store and that I would never have known what they might have been like had I not been able to borrow them. Tim asked if I tried the blue-tooth feature of the headset with my cell phone and I said yes and that was also another reason that I would like to buy those particular ones.
Tim also asked about my upcoming FAA Knowledge Test and I told him that the classes were finished and that the instructor had signed me off to take the test. I also informed him that I’ve been getting about 82%-83% on average and I was wanting to get more. He then suggested that I should go to this website for practice tests: http://www.mypilottests.com/. I said I would go there and do more practice tests. “Well that’s great! And Good Luck!” said Tim and with that, I thanked him and we bid goodbye.