Preflight planning is a very important element of any flight and especially so when going on a cross country flight. There are a number of items to be done in preparation for a VFR cross country in such a way that nothing is overlooked and the intended flight is done as safely as possible.
The most important parts of preflight planning involve checking flight information publications, aviation weather reports and determining airplane performance, including the computation of weight and balance and fuel requirements.
The influence of altitude, temperature and wind must not be ignored and you should be familiar with the pressure and density altitudes and the effect that they have on aircraft performance. Verifying available runway lengths and comparing them to your takeoff requirements and the rotational and initial climb speeds recommended in your airplane's manual (POH).
This part is the weather pre-flight and is usually completed on the day the flight will actually take place.
In todays world we as pilot have a huge amount of weather services available. It is best to start with the big picture and work your way down. Make note of where the fronts are with special interest in low pressure systems as these usually carry the most adverse weather.
The weather pre-flight items that have to be completed on the day of the flight are listed below.
When requesting weather information from a certified weather office, 1-800-WX-BRIEF.com, and be prepared to have the following information before hand:
It sure makes a difference to know if you intend to fly with a C-150 or a King Air C-90, or even heavier iron, in terms of any reported or forecasted turbulence and its effect on your flight.
Be sure to get at least the following meteorological reports (observations, analysis and forecasts):
Note that: METARS, TAFs and AIRMETs use above ground level (AGL) altitudes for cloud bases. Others such as clouds are referenced to mean sea level (MSL). Make sure that you are familiar with the various SIGMET and AIRMET types available and the conditions under which they are issued.
Use this information to visualize an image in your head of the weather along your route and, most importantly, keep obtaining updated reports from ATIS frequencies, FIS/FSS or even from tower.
More tips and tricks for using 1-800-WX-BRIEF and Aviationweather.gov can be found at Self-Brief The Weather article from AVweb, published in 2020.
During winter, flying takes on a new meaning. Getting lost due to white-out in mountain areas is easy and an emergency landing could end up badly. Even when refueling the wind chill factor is going to be a serious issue, read flying in winter conditions for more info. Check the table to the right for greater detail on wind chill. Our E6B app also has special calculators for this purpose, see button on top of the page.
The following document contains tips for applying weather information during the trip.
Guaranteed awesome sceneries for you and your passengers but not without danger. Even relatively light winds can create turbulence which could be too much to handle for the aircraft possibly resulting in a disaster. Our section mountain flying has more tips on this. Be sure to read it.