Sunday, April 4, 2010

Remember AWOS and FBO phone numbers

I just got back from our yearly spring break trek to California from Colorado. It has been a fun destination for us in 2006 to San Diego, 2007 to Carlsbad, 2009 to Disneyland. So hopefully I will have some blogs coming up including a trip report. Here is my track on this year's California trek.

One thing I remembered and used on this trip was the use of AWOS and FBO phone numbers: at the destination and also in between points. On the way back, the weather was mixed. A storm system was moving through, and I wanted to see how it was progressing especially through the mountains of Colorado. You can get some idea from surface charts, METARs, Radar, and Satellite, but more is always good. Here is a past blog post about some of what I check for weather planning a cross country flight.

On the way back from Phoenix to Santa Fe, the weather was changing. In this case, I called the FBO and asked what they saw from the ground. In this case, I heard not only the weather right above the airport which was windy, but that there was snow northeast of the airport. Albuquerque was more clear. By the time I got there the wind was not bad and there was no clouds, but it was nice to know what might be possible so that I could make my backup plans.

From Santa Fe to Longmont, I got the METARs from the Aviation Weather Metar Java site. Along the way, there is Taos (SKX), Alamosa (ALS), La Veta Pass (VTP), Pueblo (PUB), and Colorado Springs (COS). I was wondering about going a little further north from Alamos before crossing over the Sangre De Cristo mountains and there is no METAR for that area. There is however a few airports: Salida (ANK) and Canon City/Fremont County (1V6). Canon City is nice as well since it could indicate if there is clouds just past the divide. Both were clear below 10,000. Just to the west, Monarch pass (MYP) was clouded in.

Having AWOS information before, at the pass, and after the pass is good. I have noticed one time where the pass was clear, but there was a massive buildup of clouds just past the divide for 10 miles. So this time I planned on flying the west side and watching the clouds along the Sangre De Cristo range and look over the edge to see if there was any buildup on the other side. I like flying the windward west side when possible because it is a little less turbulent and will get updrafts if anything. The leeward east side is more turbulent with downdrafts being more consistent.

These AWOS phone numbers are available in the Air Guide Flight Guide, Airnav, and other places. The Colorado Mountain AWOS information is available from the CDOT AWOS web page.

So I checked these AWOS phone numbers during my weather briefing and just before starting the engine. I also watched the clouds and had a backup if things did not go as planned. You have to be flexible in the mountains.

Be safe out there and careful in the mountains and questionable weather. Always have a backup plan.


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