Pilots a question about IFR (BCAT1)

My friend is trying to make it back to Buffalo NY today from here in Houston. His flight canceled and I have been on Flight Aware trying to sort him out.

About 2:30 the flight rules category changed to BCAT 1 with cloud cover listed as “W”. That seems to mean less than 200’ of visibility and whiteout.

First, did I understand that correctly?

Second, What is his probability of getting home?

Third, Would you fly in these conditions?

Thank you


Would I fly commercial? Sure. Would I fly private with a PPL/IR ticket? Almost certainly not.

Upon re read of my OP, I realized I made a mistake.

That should be 200’ or less AGL(Above Ground Level?) for cloud cover in Whiteout.

Desert Nomad can you explain why?

I am trying to get a feel for what takeoff and landing would be like, there is also a 20-30 knt crosswind var from 240 deg to 260 deg which seems to split the x of the runways. This sounds like a nightmare to fly in.


You just answered your own question, for most folks

Does the plane have serious anti-ice? Boots or heated edges on all leading edges?

Alcohol or heated windshield?

Trying to land blind in gusting crosswinds is a disaster.

There is a difference between low clouds and blizzards - most general aircraft rated for IFR can handle the former; the latter, not so much.

We all know the smart person who made an incredibly stupid decision to fly when he or she should have stayed on the ground. Hope your friend doesn’t join the club.

Sorry, I again was unclear, his cancelled flight was commercial and he was a passenger.


20-30 knt crosswind at 45 degrees to track. … older models may be not handle that, depending , but newer aircraft can do that. Don’t think that just because one flight is cancelled that all flights must be …

Re temperature… well the polar vortex is taking high altitude conditions down to ground level… its not that the high altitudes are any worse during the polar vortex, but the same temperature is visiting ground level.

As a pilot I would definitely fly an airliner in those conditions but for most airports in Australia it puts the weather at the minimum for the best approach available. Fuel for an alternate airport would be a must. The complicating factor is that the alternate airport has to have good conditions and if there aren’t any suitable alternates within range then you can’t carry enough fuel to be able to depart.

I would fly a light multi engined aircraft in those conditions and wouldn’t have a problem being a passenger as long as I was comfortable with the pilot and/or company.

The big issue is having a plan B in case you can’t get to the destination. It the plan B is a good one then there is nothing inherently dangerous about attempting an approach in the conditions you’ve listed. If there are no plan B airfields within range of the destination then you can’t depart. This may be the issue for your friend’s flight if the weather is wide spread.

This is all assuming an ILS is available.

Edit: I’m not familiar with US IFR codes.

While a modern airliner can fly in such conditions remember that just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

The airliners are not cancelling flights to piss people off. They’re cancelling flights because in some areas it is not safe to fly into a particular airport. Granted, this then causes scheduling problems that will cancel flights that aren’t having weather problems but really, flight into whiteout conditions, overcast down to 200 feet above the ground, and the crosswinds you describe are Not Fun. I think cancelling, even for the big boys, is a totally legitimate response. I trust that when airlines make that call they aren’t doing so lightly. If they decide flying isn’t a good idea I don’t want to go up.

I know from experience being stranded isn’t fun - I have, literally, slept on the floor of an airport terminal, I know it sucks - but I’d rather be stranded on the ground using my carry-on as a pillow on the cold tile floor of O’Hare or Midway than fearing for my life on a scary ride down to a runway in bad weather. Your friend is probably better off miserable but on the ground. There will always be another flight when the weather clears up.

I believe the “W” is actually “V V” - the abbreviation for vertical visibility, rather than whiteout.

Thanks everyone, I assumed that these conditions were close to the edge.

Here is the page I have been getting info from, for those that are interested.


The flight was called off before my buddy even got to the airport, he is staying with his best friend from childhood, has a bed etc. He is on standby til Thursday red eye.



I know that Airlines do not cancel lightly, getting less traveled persons to understand that is a whole nother ball o wax.

Perhaps it would help the less traveled persons to consider that the absolute last thing an airline wants is a whole bunch of planes sitting around on the ground. Planes cost a lot of money, and they only make money when they actually fly people from A to B.

Weather delays result in a whole lot of revenue raising flights being cancelled, and a whole lot of planes in the wrong places. Airline managers don’t sit around thinking of artificial excuses as to why they should not fly planes - that would be like a McDonalds manager trying to come up with reasons why he should refuse to sell burgers.

Bolding mine.

This is a big part of the equation - sometimes when an airline cancels a flight due to poor weather or severe ATC delays at the destination airport, the airplane is flown empty to its next destination, so as to avoid disrupting the entire system.

Also, often times wind, ceilings, or visibility force an airport to operate with less than ideal runway configurations. This can be complicated by other nearby airports which are also forced to use a suboptimal runway configurations, causing ATC to slow arrivals into both airports. This is why the major airports on the east coast of the US always seem to be screwed up.

There are other considerations involving the crew and their limitations. I didn’t know this until recently (when my youngster started flying for the airlines), but crews themselves have ceiling and visibility limits based on their experience and time-in-type (of plane). One of my son’s flights (he’s a copilot) had to be cancelled this weekend because the Captain had less than X hours in that particular airplane, and the ceiling/rvr* at their destination airport was below his limits (not the legal limits of the plane).

There’s a lot of churn right now in flight crews, mainly due to the pilot shortage** and sometimes the captain has a great deal of flying time, but a relatively small amount in a particular airplane type. It can lead to an odd situation where the FO (copilot) is actually qualified to minimums, but the Cap’n ain’t, so they err on the side of safety.

This happened to my kid as well thsi weekend. They were short a flight attendant, and FAA rules require a certain number aboard. They took off with an empty airplane and flew it to its next stop. Leaving behind a seething mass of passengers (he felt sorry for the gate agent).
*rvr = Runway Visual Range - measured (usually) by instruments at the airport

**Due mainly to the retirement wave of the current era of pilots. Congress pushed the mandatory age 60 age retirement up to 65… 5 years ago. Son’s airline is losing almost 2 pilots a day to retirement. Delta claims they’re losing one every 18 hours. The forced retirement age, along with the higher experience requirements (due to the Buffalo crash) is putting pilots in high demand. One of my trade magazines says Boeing is predicting a need for 40,000 new pilots in the Middle East alone over the next decade, and China is already 10,000 short of what they need. And to top it all off, new crew-rest requirements took effect this year, and the new definition of “rest” is making it even harder to keep the cockpits filled with experienced pilots. I suspect we’ll see a lot of cancellations until this gets worked out.

::: shrug ::::

That’s still an issue of safety. If you can’t properly equip or crew the plane for anticipated conditions it’s not safe to fly in them.

I thought they needed one flight attendant per X number of passengers. Couldn’t they just bump a couple of them (with the usual cash incentive) and take the rest?

No, it’s per passenger seat, not per passenger.

*A certificate holder is an airline.

An important distinction that I was not aware of. Thank you.

Different rules for different countries. In Australia we can carry fewer attendants if we limit the number of passengers carried.