HOW TO FLY SAFELY WHEN FIRE BRUSHES OUR CITY

Published: August 02, 2018

14DAYPILOT

For us Pilots, especially flying visual flight rules, weather planning for local flights in southern California normally involves looking upwards and checking that the sky is clear blue, and noting if the palm trees are indicating the presence of wind.

 

Figure 1: One way of checking for Visual Flight Rules conditions – Low Level Significant Weather Chart

 

On 4th December 2017, a brush fire began in the vicinity of the city of Santa Paula and grew so rapidly, it burned for over a week before firefighting crews would be able to contain the fire and bring it under some level of control. The fire spread due in part to the unseasonably dry conditions, extremely low humidity and very strong winds.

 

Figure 2: Example of TFR as shown on www.skyvector.com

 

During these wild fires, there were many TFR’s (temporary flight restrictions) which enabled the helicopters and planes fighting the fire to have unobstructed access to the area. There was also a TFR which closed Santa Paula Airport (KSPZ) because it was overtaken by California Fire Rescue as a base to launch the aircraft.

 

Figure 3: Fire rescue vehicles on standby to handle fire

 

Figure 4: Firefighting aircraft putting out fire

 

Checking for TFR’s and weather should be amongst several checks that all pilots make before even climbing into the aircraft. We can use software like ForeFlight as part of our pre-flight checks, but there are other methods which we should be familiar with:

 

Get TFR’s by:

Call Flight Service Station (1-800-WX-BRIEF) and actually speak to someone about your route
Use the FAA TFR website: http://tfr.faa.gov/tfr2/list.html
FAA Safety Email notifications – subscribe to receive these
Become a member of AOPA – they’ll send TFR’s to you too
Some ADS-B receivers (like Stratus Scout) show TFR boundaries and information on your iPad
 

Get General Weather:

Fronts, pressure systems and isobars (weather systems)
Great tool: http://aviationweather.gov/windtemp?gis=off
 

Figure 5: Surface Analysis Chart – one way of checking for fronts and pressure systems

Get Local Weather:

Surface analysis: winds, moisture, stability and barometric pressure
Great tool: http://www.usairnet.com/cgi-bin/launch/code.cgi?sta=KLAX&state=CA
 

Flying in Los Angeles’ busy airspace is lots of fun, and makes pilot training with 14DayPilot even more rewarding compared to smaller, less challenging locations. Part of becoming a professional pilot is becoming a safe pilot, and learning to plan properly. Remember the 6P’s: proper planning prevents poor performance!

14DAYPILOT

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