The perfect flying season is here. There are two times the flight weather environment becomes perfect and those times are fall and spring. Fall more so than spring, but still, spring is good.
What makes fall and spring the perfect time to fly is the outside air temperature, the clear skies, and sometimes, the light winds. In the fall, the time before the first blasts of cold frontal activity, the temperature is perfect for flying, for both the airplane and the crews. It is not too hot, not too cool. In other words, during the fall, the temperature is comfortable.
The skies can be crystalline clear without a cloud in the sky. In-flight visibility is phenomenal. There is something about the sky conditions during the fall and spring which seem to magnify the details of the land; checkpoints seem to stand out and colors are more vivid.
The winds are typically light during this time. It is the calm before the storm, so to speak. This is particularly true of flying conditions right at sunrise or just before and after the sun sets.
The best time to fly during the perfect flying season is at sunrise. I remember watching a Cessna 150 on the take off roll early in the morning right at dawn on a slightly humid early fall morning. As the Continental O-200 engine roared and swung the propeller, the prop grabbed all the air it could while trying to pull the airplane into the sky. In doing so, it compressed all the moisture out of the air leaving a little contrail behind each propeller tip. Each trail spiraled all the way behind the 150 hanging in the humid air after the airplane was gone. It was one of those moments I mentally photographed – because I had no camera with me at the moment.
Another quality of the season making it perfect for flying is the stable air. Since it is not as hot as in the summer, the ground does not heat the adjacent air as rapidly in July or August. As a result, the in-flight turbulence begins later in the morning and dies off earlier in the afternoon.
Well, it is about time for the sun to rise. Excuse me, I need to go find a seat somewhere in a little airplane…
© 2010 J. Clark