By Fred Gibbs


Fred’s Perspective:

Just to be clear, the opinions and statements made within my articles are strictly mine and may not necessarily reflect any policy or position of the Arizona Pilots Association.


Monsoon Season – Well, I am sure all of you know that monsoon season is upon us. The rain is definitely a welcome relief. However, it also poses some challenges for any of us out there flying. Aside from the fact that we get some potentially real IFR flying, flying around in thunderstorms is not a good idea! Avoidance of any boomer is highly recommended, and flying below them is not a good idea either. Oh, sure, I can get a free “airplane wash” flying through the virga, but the potential effects of the downdrafts associated with the virga may be disastrous! Staying in the pattern with surrounding thunderstorms may seem like a good idea, but the outflow from those local thunderstorms may make landings, um, EXCITING, to say the least!

gaarms august 2022 monsoon season

If you see lightning it may be time to get on the ground. If you see lightning and hear the thunderclap within 5 seconds of the flash, the thunderstorm is pretty darn close, and you need to get on the ground NOW! Airlines stop refueling aircraft any time lightning is within 10 miles of the airport. Now, lightning itself, should it hit your airplane, will not hurt the airplane since it is not grounded. But I guarantee it will scare the $%&#@ out of you, maybe fry all your avionics, and put the fear of God into you forever! Some telltale signs do appear, courtesy of Mother Nature, to help you make a good aeronautical decision about weather avoidance. You need to be aware of things like lightning in the distance, ugly black clouds forming, or a phenomenon like in the picture below.

Although you may not be able to see it clearly in the picture, the cloud formation was a beautiful orange vortex, a beautiful circular formation like you would see associated with a tornado. I took this picture just before sunset here in Flagstaff while flying downwind in the pattern and decided it was time to get on the ground, pronto!!


Discussion article:

In order to log actual IFR time, do I have to be in IMC (Instrument Meteorological conditions), i.e., in the clouds?

Well, I am going to start the discussion with my opinion based on some facts, an FAA interpretation, conversations and hearsay, as I understand it.

Here goes: my answer is NO!

gaarms august 2022 cessna c210

If I am flying my 787 across the Pacific Ocean at night at FL390, obviously on an IFR flight plan, with no visible landmarks and no horizon for reference, I am, for all practical purposes, flying solely with reference to my instruments, thus I meet the requirement that says I am technically IFR and can log the time as actual IFR. Ask any airline pilot…

Now, if I am on an IFR flight plan at 12,000 feet in my Cessna C210 in a perfectly clear, but very dark moonless sky, over the Mohave Desert at night with no ground references and strictly flying on instruments because there is no visible horizon, does the same philosophy apply?

Or… if I am on an IFR flight plan from Ft. Meyers, FL to Mobile, Alabama out over the Gulf of Mexico in clear skies on top of a cloud deck with NO visible horizon, does the same philosophy apply?

Or… if I’m simply on an IFR flight plan in VMC at 11,000 feet, coming up V327 from Phoenix to “dark as the inside of a coal mine” Flagstaff, again, with no visible horizon and relying solely on my instruments for reference and navigation, does the same philosophy apply?

I believe so, so let the discussion begin… Any and all comments welcome.

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(Answers at bottom of Safety Programs)

  1. Most weather reported in a METAR observation is within _____ of the airport's location (reference) point (ARP).
    1. 3NM
    2. 5NM
    3. 3SM
    4. 5SM
  2. A/an ____ is an unscheduled observation taken when there is a significant change in the weather. A/an ____ report helps alert pilots about rapidly changing weather conditions at an airport.
    1. AIRMET
    2. PIREP
    3. METAR
    4. SPECI
    5. TAF AMDNT
  1. What weather report forecasts altitudes for cloud tops?
    1. Convective AIRMETS
    2. Center Weather Advisories
    3. TAF
    4. Graphical Area forecasts

gaarms august 2022 clouds 1

  1. You are flying across Northern Arizona at 12,500 feet and you see these clouds above you. What kind of clouds are they?
    1. Altocumulus
    2. Standing Lenticulars
    3. Altostratus
    4. Cirrus
  1. At 9,000 feet MSL above GFK, what is the wind speed and direction?

gaarms august 2022 msl above gfk

    1. 031 degrees true at 25kts
    2. 031 degrees magnetic at 25 kts
    3. 310 degrees magnetic 25 kts
    4. 310 degrees true at 25 kts

gaarms august 2022 clouds 2

  1. As you arrive at your destination airport, you see this weather surrounding the nearby mountains. What AIRMET would you have expected to receive during a weather briefing?
    1. TANGO
    2. SIERRA
    3. ZULU




There are NOT a lot of FAASTeam safety programs on the schedule over the next couple of months around the state, but hopefully that will change in the near future. Simply log on to the Internet and go to WWW.FAASAFETY.GOV , click on “Seminars” and start checking for any upcoming seminars, but don’t expect a lot during the Covid-19 pandemic. However, there are a lot of great webinars online, each about an hour long, and worth credits towards your WINGS participation. You might find one that is really right up your alley or “tickles yer fancy”!!

Should you desire a particular safety or educational program at your local airport or pilot meeting in the future (post COVID-19), like the BasicMed program, our “Winter Wonderland” snow season special, or my newest one on LIFR approaches discussing the how’s and pitfalls of shooting an approach all the way down to minimums and missed approaches, simply contact me directly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or call me at 410-206-3753. The Arizona Pilots Association provides the safety programs at no charge. We can also help you organize a program of your choice, and we can recommend programs that your pilot community might really like.

There are also a lot of great webinars online, each about an hour long, and worth credits towards your WINGS participation. You might find one that is really right up your alley or “tickles yer fancy”!!


Quiz answers: 1.d, 2 d, 3.d, 4. D, 5.d and b

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