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5 Answers

What forecast winds to use for the climb in a VFR flight plan?

Asked by: 2812 views Student Pilot

Say you are working up a VFR flight plan and you make your first checkpoint the Top of Climb.  Now you want to compute your compass heading, ground speed, etc... for the climb based on the wind correction angle. What winds do you use to compute this?  I see a few options:

  1. Don't worry about computing a wind correction angle for the climb out. Just use the time, distance and fuel from the POH. 
  2. Use the winds at cruising and the winds on the ground and interpolate.
  3. Use the winds at cruising

A second question is what winds do you use for computing  wind correction at cruise if your plan to cruise at 7500 feet and the first level of forecast winds on your route is at 9000?  Do you just use the winds at 9000?  Or perhaps use RUC forecast soundings instead of the traditional winds aloft forecast?


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5 Answers

  1. Mark Kolber on Jan 11, 2014


    While you can go crazy with trying to compute exact numbers and do an new calculation for every 1,000 feet, remember that the winds aloft are forecast winds aloft. On top of that, what if your departure airport is towered and Tower insists you head in the opposite direction first because of traffic considerations. There go your calcs.

    While it’s a very nice exercise is learning to use the E6B, there’s not much practical use for calculating winds in a climb or even assuming your TOC waypoint is even one you will actually pass along the way.

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  2. Austin on Jan 11, 2014

    I recently blogged about how climb and enroute winds that weren’t forecasted took a 3.9 hour flight and turned it into a 4.7 hour flight.. Landed with 4 gallons of usable fuel remaining. I was limited on places to land, IFR at night in the winter over mountains in a country that has airports spread out over the course of a large distances. Sticky situation. Have to use good judgement. Here it is if you want to check it out:


    -Austin, CFI

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  3. Austin on Jan 11, 2014

    Interpolate. However, I strongly caution any pilot with fully relying on any winds aloft data. Be cautious and take note that actual conditions match forecasted. Not trying to sound like a big brother or anything, but I care enough about everyone to share some of my experiences.

    I recently wrote a blog about encountering a dilemma dealing with this. The winds in the climb and cruise far exceeded the speed and direction that was forecasted. A 3.7 hour flight turned into a 4.7 hour flight and a landing with 4 gallons of usable fuel (C172~5 hours of fuel). We were limited on options.. midnight in the winter, IFR, over mountains and in a country where airports are spread apart by several several miles. If you’re interested in it, you can read about it:


    -Austin, CFI and UH-60 Pilot

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  4. Wes Beard on Jan 12, 2014

    I use the winds halfway between the airport elevation and the top of climb altitude.

    If departing at sea level and climbing to 8000′ then interpolate for the winds at 4000′.

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  5. Mark Kolber on Jan 14, 2014

    Austin makes an excellent point. We always talk about maintaining situational awareness. That applies to this as well. Is our climb going to be to 3000-4000 agl or are we heading up to 8000-9000? That’s going to make a difference. It’s also a reason for a top of climb time check to see how our fuel calculations (which is really what it’s all about) are doing.

    Btw, a top of climb check does not require the calculation of a specific TOC checkpoint. All it requires is a checkpoint away from the departure airport which you will head toward even if you takeoff in the opposite direction and have to maneuver in the airport area. That should be pretty standard fare in flight planning.

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