Pilot's tip of the week

Climbing For Smooth Air


Subscriber question:

"I am a VFR pilot and recently went out for a flight on a warm, summer afternoon. Puffy cumulus clouds dotted the sky at 4500 feet MSL. The ride below was bumpy and I thought about trying to fly over the scattered clouds. There was plenty of room between them to make a climb, but I feared what would happen if I ended up trapped above them further along in the flight. What is the best way for pilots like me to deal with a bumpy ride? Slow down, try to climb, or just deal with it?" - Keith B.


“Those puffy cumulus clouds are caused by thermals which are the result of the sun heating things on the ground and the subsequent warm air rising. If you can maintain your VFR required cloud clearances and climb above them you will almost always have a smooth and cooler ride.

VFR on topTypically when these conditions occur, the cloud cover remains scattered to broken. But, there are times when that is not true. So, the terminal forecast is a good place to start to determine if overcast is predicted along your route. Also, the area forecast is another good place to check. Here is where you can find the predicted cloud tops.

If you are flying on a cross-country, you can check the weather ahead by tuning up the AWOS or ATIS of the airports just ahead on your route. If they start reporting overcast, it is time to find a hole and descend.

There is no reason you cannot fly VFR-over-top safely as long as you do proper planning and maintain aggressive in-flight awareness.”


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