When Is The Best Time of The Day To Fly?
(Copyright@2009 by Yonko Mali. All rights reserved.)

Thank you for that interesting question. The best time of the day to fly for the smoothest flight is in the morning. No question about that. You avoid the common afternoon thunderstorms which are prevalent in the United States for 9 months of the year. Even without the threat of thunderstorms, the sun heating up the atmosphere is what causes turbulence.

When Is The Best Time Of The Year To Fly?

The best time of the year to fly is in the fall. And the worst time of the year to fly is in the springtime. Springtime has the most unsettled weather, including tornadoes which are most common in the springtime. Did you know that tornadoes are very uncommon in the rest of the world? Yes the United States is unique in its location between the two great oceans and its terrain that tornadoes, thunderstorms and hurricanes are quite common.

As far as winter time is concern, the biggest danger is on or near the ground. With ice and snow on landings and takeoffs and icing on the wings at lower altitudes when airplanes are flying slower and not generating as much heat on their wings to melt any ice. But most winter fronts, on the other hand, are low level affairs that can be flown over easily. You want to avoid flying through fronts or near fronts for the most comfortable flights.

Note: Hurricanes are relatively easy to fly over. The pilot simply has to avoid the embedded thunderstorms that are found in the “weather bands” swirling around a hurricane. We are also lucky that the most dangerous part of the hurricane is the northeast sector which is usually over the Atlantic Ocean. Hurricanes make landfall most commonly with their western side when striking the East Coast of the USA, except that New England area can really be hit hard by a hurricane because they can be subject to the northeastern side of a hurricane. Now Gulf hurricanes can be very dangerous to the Florida peninsular and the southeastern states because they can be hit with the northeastern side of the hurricane. Fortunately there are not that many hurricanes that hit the west side of Florida and even less hurricanes that hit New England.

Which are the Best Seats to have when flying on an airplane?

Choose a seat in the middle of the airplane for the smoothest flight. The wings will block your view but the center of the airplane’s weight is over the center of the wings. Also remember that the flying in bigger airplane will also give you a smoother flight.

Note: To digress for a moment about taking a boat cruise: when taking a cruise on a boat, the smoothest rooms are in the center of the ship, away from the window rows and on the lower levels of the ship. Again, you will not see as much but you will not feel the rocking back and forth as much either.

Conclusion

So yes, the best time of the day to fly for the smoothest and most comfortable flight is in the morning most of the time. Also be comforted by the fact that the weather information available to the pilots in the air and the weather information available to the controllers on the ground is so much better nowadays. The technology available with our computers and satellites is simply amazing.

What are the Best Weather websites to use?

Here are two excellent weather websites to use:
www.turbulenceforecast.com
www.weatherunderground.com

These sites will give you an excellent idea of what the flying weather is forecast to be as well as an estimate of the amount of turbulence you can expect when flying in the USA. Hint: avoid flights that cross over or come near the "jet streams". And watch the Winds Aloft; stronger winds usually means more chance of turbulence especially when the wind bands are "tight" together.

Another good general weather site is www.accuweather.com.

There is also another interesting website that is very interesting to look at: www.flightaware.com. This site tracks the flights of all commercial flights in the USA- just type in the flight number. I find this site very useful when I am deciding when to leave for the airport to pick up someone who is coming in because this website gives you an accurate estimate of when the airplane will arrive at the airport. Also if you track the airplane flights that you take the most often, you can see the normal flight paths they take and the altitudes they fly at due to air traffic control purposes and you can see how the airplanes avoid the bad weather as much as they can.

Hint: by knowing what are the typical flight levels that your route uses, then you can check the turbulence forecasts for those flight levels. For shorter flights the flight levels are usually in the lower 20,000’s or Flight Level 200-250. For longer flights like a flight from NY to Florida, the Flight Level is usually in the lower 30,000’s or Flight Level 300 to 350. For cross country flights NY to LA and international flights the Flight Levels are usually in the high 30,000’s like Flight Level 350-390.

Here is a final tip: be more careful about weather on shorter flights because this means you are usually flying on smaller aircraft and also because on shorter flights, the airplanes are limited to how high they can fly for air control purposes; hence, on shorter flights the pilots may not be able to “climb on top of” the weather.