How to Avoid Thunderstorm and Surviving Penetration

How to avoid thunderstorm without on board radar?

  • As long as possible maintain VFR conditions on top to observe and avoid buildups. In case it becomes impossible to get on top and maintain that level, the best way out is to move down as low as possible below the clouds in what may be VFR conditions.
  • Observe obstacles and avoid the rain shafts by maintaining VFR conditions below the bases.
  • Daytime: Do not fly towards the dark sky. Get pireps by talking to the ATC
  • Night: Do not fly towards lightning. Get pireps by talking to the ATC

Safety Alert from NTSB: In-Cockpit Mosaic Imagery

There can be a significant difference between the actual age of Nexrad data and the one that is shown on the display.

The NSTB warns pilots that the information displayed on in-cockpit next-generation Nexrad can be nearly 15 – 20 minutes old. It can be hazardous to rely on such information particularly when the aircraft wants to escape the fast-moving weather systems.

The in-cockpit Nexrad displays shows the weather where it was, not where it is now. The indicated age is not that of the actual weather conditions, but it is of the mosaic image.

AIM 7-1-10

Aviation weather released by Flight Information Services is not appropriate for tactical avoidance of bad weather (less than 3 minutes), for example to negotiate a path through a weather-hazard area.

It is the strategic weather decision-making that is supported by FIS (having a time frame of 20 minutes or more). It is good for avoiding hazardous weather area in its entirety.

The weather broadcast from flight information services (FIS-B) and the one received on iPad or MFD is always outdated weather. It is usually many minutes old.

FIS-B weather should never be used as a substitute for on-board weather radar. This weather should not be used when you want to pass through a fast-moving area of severe weather.

People have died trying.

Keep your iPad aside and go back to basic, look out of the window. In case you do not like what you see, it is better to land or move away from it as soon as possible.

Accidentally Entering Thunderstorm and Surviving:

  • Pick the best altitude, stay as low as possible
  • switch on the engine anti-ice, prop de-ice and pitot heat
  • secure your flight bag and tighten seat belts
  • Turn the cockpit lights to highest intensity. Do not watch the light show outside, keep your eyes on the instruments.
  • Maintain a slow speed, close to the maneuvering speed (Va). You should not change the airspeed and altitude excursions.
  • Extend the landing gear to slow down and stabilize the aircraft

Dealing wit extreme turbulence is no joke. The only thing a pilot can do is to slow down and keep the wings level. Nothing else will be fruitful. Don’t be afraid in case you are not able to maintain control.

Slowing down will avert the chance of losing a wing, which is far better than losing a gear door. In all probability landing gear will not fall off.

  • Talk to ATC. Stay calm and professional. Tell that you are in extreme turbulence and that you are descending or climbing right now. It is no time to ask for permission. Just tell them what you are doing.

According to rule 91.3(b) you are the pilot in command. During an emergency a PIC can deviate from any rule in order to meet the emergency. It does not mention that a PIC will have to first ask for permission. Take charge of your aircraft, do not allow ATC to fly your airplane.

A quick look at points:

  • Wings should be kept level. It does not make sense to turn back. When you turn, load factor increases considerably.
  • You should not try to maintain a particular altitude in time of severe downdrafts and updrafts. Your first priority is to keep the wings level and the airspeed somewhere around maneuvering speed.

# Extreme Turbulence #

The aircraft is practically impossible to control and is being tossed around violently. In case something is not done immediately, it may lead to structural damage.

It will be difficult to read the airspeed indicator as the needle may be fluctuating erratically and your eyes may not be able to stay steady. It is a clear cut emergency, and the one that can break your aircraft.

You are not required to take ATC permission to do anything about it.

All together now, one more time:

  • Slow down
  • Do not try to maintain a specific altitude
  • Keep the wings level

As and when you are able to speak clearly, inform ATC about the extreme turbulence you are in and about your inability to maintain the assigned altitude.

When you get out of this mess in one piece, write a note for yourself:

Never, ever put yourself in the same situation again. Ever.

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