When it comes to flying, there are many hazards and warnings you should consider before each flight. One major factor that every pilot should consider before each flight is the weather, especially when it comes to thunderstorms. Thunderstorms are no laughing matter and as pilots we must take them seriously, and execute the safest plan for ourselves, flight crew, and passengers. So, for this week’s blog I want to discuss the dangers of thunderstorms when it comes to flying and what action you should take when dealing with a possible thunderstorm.
Thunderstorm Stages and development
For me personally, I’ve lived here in Oklahoma for the past twelve years, and I’ve seen my fair share of severe thunderstorms during the spring time, and especially since I live in the heart of tornado alley. So how does a thunderstorm develop. The three main ingredients that you need for the development of a thunderstorm are an unstable atmosphere, a lifting force, and moisture in the atmosphere. Typically, thunderstorms will most of the time develop along some form of a frontal system like a cold front, or a dryline; however, that’s not always the case, but you do see it happen quite often.
Now how can you tell if a storm is strengthening or weakening? Well once again thunderstorms have three life cycles, the first being the cumulus stage which is mainly classified my continuous updrafts. This is when you are looking at the clouds and they look like they are getting bigger and going much higher into the atmosphere. The next stage is the mature stage, and this is the stage when you begin to see visible precipitation starting to fall. And finally, you have the dissipating stage, which is when the storm is starting to weaken and is classified by continuous down drafts.
photo credits to the National Weather service station
Dangers Associated with flight
Now when it comes to flying, it is never safe to fly through a thunderstorm since there are many hazards and risk when it comes to a thunderstorm. The first major risk a thunderstorm imposes on flying is the increase and sudden changes of winds. When a thunderstorm is passing, the storm will often bring strong to severe winds, that can change in any direction. In fact, two major hazard that the winds and rain of a thunderstorm brings is wind shear and microburst, which can cost nearly any aircraft to be flipped over or thrown off the runway if they are in the takeoff or landing stage. Another major hazard, is the fact that thunderstorms will bring severe downdrafts. This can cause for an airplane to stall even when the pilots put in full power, because of how strong the downdrafts are the pilots may have a hard time getting the aircraft out of a stall. Hail & icing is another major factor in a thunderstorm, because if you are flying and having hail stones or even rain droplets hitting your aircraft, and you are in a layer of freezing temperatures; it can cause for you angle of attack to increase as well as increasing the weight of your aircraft. And finally, with any thunderstorm a hazard that any of us should consider is lightning, because that can be the key sign of whether a storm is severe, or strengthening.
How to avoid flying into a storm
So, what should you do if your deciding whether if it’s safe to fly or not; or what happens if you encounter a storm during your flight? Well hopefully before each flight, you all do what I do and check the latest weather reports, and make sure everything lines up together. Check the latest METAR’s, TAF reports, area forecast, Prog charts, and even pilot reports to see what everyone is reporting as far as flying. If it doesn’t look promising, don’t be stupid and go, just wait it out or make a no-go decision. Now let’s say you are in flight and you see a line of storms that you hadn’t predicted you would encounter. Well first off, try getting in contact with the latest flight service station to see if you can get an update on the weather or line of storms near you. If they deem it as being severe, let ATC know that you need to divert to an airport and stay away from those storms. But for some of you all who fly bigger and faster aircrafts, you may decide to divert around the storms and not fly through them. If this is the case again let ATC know and use a rule of thumb to avoid the thunderstorms by at least 20 miles because you can still feel some of the storms effects even when you are still a few miles away from them. In conclusion, just use the see and avoid rule as I’ve always been taught.
Well guys that’s it for this week’s blog, Also, make sure to check out https://blog.globalair.com/ for other great blogs and featured stories on other pilot stories as well as other reviews on aviation related articles. As always guys remember that “adventure is out there!”
Oh and here is a link to the photos I told you all about last week form our aviation banquet, I figured it would be easier to use this rather than uploading a ton.
Also, I want to highly encourage you all to consider applying for the 2017-2018 Calvin L Carrithers scholarship, believe me I thought I wouldn’t be selected as a recipient, but it’s been a true honor and privilege of being selected for this past year and I’ve really enjoyed sharing my experiences of blogging them and I look to keep blogging for the next few years. So, if you’re looking for some scholarship money to cover aviation expenses I encourage you to apply!!