All posts tagged 'thunderstorms'

Know Your Airspeeds and How They Can Help You

No matter how much you flight plan and prepare for a flight, sometimes unexpected things happen that can throw you for a loop. The best way to be ready for these situations is...

1) Always expect the unexpected

2) Practice how you'll handle situations that can arise

3) Stay up-to-date on your knowledge

One valuable way to do this knowing your airspeed indicator.

I bring up being prepared because it's summer, meaning the air is hot, it's bumpy, it randomly builds into convective layers, and is sometimes simply unpredictable. So being able to manage your airspeed and knowing when to be in which arc is a good way to keep you and your passengers safe. 

Airspeed Indicator

The first two on the bottom of the indicator are Vso and Vs1: your stall speeds with and without flaps. Always be checking yourself on takeoff and landing to make sure you're not too close to these. In fact, if you're landing in gusty winds/tailwind carry a little extra power to give yourself some extra speed. 

Vfe is your maximum flap speed, so if airspeed is being erratic on a bumpy day and you're trying to bring flaps down for any reason, give yourself some cushion room as to not overspeed them.

The green arc is your normal operating range for the aircraft. Something that is not marked on the indicator however is Va, your safe maneuvering speed. If you're going to be making full abrupt control movements (or penetrating turbulent air since it does this to your controls) then stay not only below green arc but also below Va. 

Vno is the top of your green arc with the yellow arc to follow. The yellow arc is simply your caution range, it's not a specific V speed but it's warning you that if you keep going fast you'll reach Vne, your never exceed speed. Regardless of if you're in smooth or turbulent air here, you could damage the aircraft. This would most likely happen if you had a lot of power in with the nose pitched down. Imagine flying near a thunderstorm cell and catching part of an updraft. If you're lucky enough to recover from it, you might look up to find yourself in this situation. So scan everything, keep the aircraft under control and stay calm if this does happen to you. 

Phenomenon such as updrafts and windshear can be encountered outside of a thunderstorm area. The best way to predict which areas they may be in is PIREPs. So do thorough flight planning! 

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Basic Math Behind Radar Tilt

There's no doubt about it: as we get into summertime, we're transitioning into the fun game of dodging storm cells. 

The air is hotter and more unstable and quickly builds into convective-type clouds that keep rising into the troposphere, next thing you know you have pop-up thunderstorms everywhere. The job gets especially fun as they grow into squall line thunderstorms. The best way to stay safe in these situations is to plan ahead, always have a backup plan, let ATC know what you need, then cooperate with them, and know how to use your radar.

Clouds in the Sky

Each radar is slightly different from the other but for the most part, they work very similarly. The first step to knowing how to tilt your radar is knowing how long your antenna is. The length corresponds to the beam it puts out. For example, a 10-inch antenna puts out a 10-inch beam, 12 inches has 7.9 degrees, 18 inches has 5.6 degrees and lastly, 24 inches has 4.2. So as the length increases, the beam degrees decrease.

If you happen to know the width of your beam in degrees then you can figure out your tilt with a little math. This photo and mathematical formula from Code 7700 explains it simply using the G450 as an example, where they have the 24 inch 4.2 degree beam:

Beam Width Gulfstream G450

So at 45,000 ft, it would take 100nm to paint the edge of the ground clutter, and tilting the beam to 2.1 degrees would point it at level flight. 

While it can sound a little confusing at first, using this formula and adjusting the tilt at the same time will help you adjust to being able to tell when you have the radar set how you want and when it needs to be readjusted. A good practice is to always use your radar while you're trying to learn it, even to see terrain rather than the weather. Most would recommend whether you're in the Texas flatlands or near high terrain in California that it's good to have your terrain feature on. 

Weather Radar on Map

Something else I like to do to double-check I have the tilt on an accurate setting is to see if I have service/wifi onboard like this G450, open up that Foreflight radar (or your most trusted radar app, also highly recommend MyRadar). After all, two is better than one!

The last tip, but most definitely not least to trust your onboard radar, is if you're VMC, simply look outside. Night or daytime, you can see lightning and guestimate where that cell is in relation to you. If you're not sure how close it is, take a 10-degree deviation off course to feel safe. ATC 99.999999% always approves deviations for the weather. They want you to land safely just as much as you do. 

Hope everyone is ready for the summer flying season to take place! Remember to be knowledgeable, be safe, and download the BuyPlane app. Safe flying everyone. 

Understanding Thunderstorms & How to Fly Around Them

There's no doubt about it, thunderstorms are a big threat to aviators. Next to hurricanes and tornadoes, they can seem as if they're the lesser issue to worry about of these. Pictured below is a photo of one of the planes out of KLCH after Hurricane Laura hit last month. Flying into or near a thunderstorm can actually be just as devastating. 

-A side note, Lake Charles has faced a lot of devastation in the aftermath of the storm. Not pictured was a PC 12 that was upside down and absolutely destroyed. Almost all of the hangars were taken out and the airport had a lot of wreckage left behind. If there is any way you can help the locals there by donating supplies or evening bringing hot meals it is much appreciated. We flew supplies over as a relief effort and some lost everything, even now people there are looking at weeks without power.

However, we face thunderstorms more commonly than other types of dangerous weather phenomena, so let's talk about them.