Navigating Florida Skies: Weather Challenges in VFR Flying

Currently, I mainly fly without GPS, so I decided to enhance my situational awareness. Firstly, I ordered an iPad for use with ForeFlight (which works only on Apple devices). In the end, I chose FltPlan Go instead, but for visual flying they provide very similar functionality. Planning and flying with any Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) is mush easier! METARs and TAFs, airport diagrams, approach plates for IFR are readily available at all times. I still prepare paper charts for every flight, but now they serve as my backup source of information.

BTW, FltPlan Go is unavailable in some local App Store versions, so you might want to link your apple account to the US address.

I also purchased Stratux: an ADS-B device combined with AHRS and GPS, very similar to Sentry but much less expensive. Consequently, I can see weather and traffic data and have a backup attitude indicator. While it’s not a primary source of information, it adds an extra layer of safety.

Summer in Florida brings frequent thunderstorms, forming quickly, often with multiple cells. In case of thunderstorms, “VCTS” appears in the METAR, meaning “thunderstorms in the vicinity.” We see this sign almost daily after 2 pm, but before 1 pm, it’s usually safe, and the sky is clear.

I planned to fly Northeast and back before large cumulus and cumulonimbus clouds started to form. However, today they appeared earlier, and I spotted towering clouds from the destination airport. They were still far to the Northeast, and the Southwest direction remained clear, so I took off and turned Southwest.

After 15-20 minutes, some cumulus clouds ahead turned into small thunderstorm cells, prompting me to deviate. A large dark cloud of about 6000 feet height appeared about 25 miles away, along with some smaller cumulonimbus clouds.

I kept an eye on nearby aerodromes just in case the situation get worse, but fortunately, the thunderstorm cells didn’t form a long line. Flying about 10 miles straight to the South helped me safely avoid them.

It was a bumpy ride though, as wind gusts reached about 16 knots, according to our weather station.

About an hour after landing, thunderstorm cells formed a continuous wall along the shoreline with a 10-15 mile shift to the East. The wind intensified, but those cells remained stationary as moist air from the ocean fed them. To the East, the clouds dissipated, occasionally forming new, weaker cells. This was going on for some hours.

This weather pattern is typical for summer in Florida, where almost every day is flyable, but it’s advisable to be on the ground after 2 pm.





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