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Dissecting T-Storms

A fter a record winter where temperatures fell below -30 degrees F in some parts of the Midwest, its hard to believe summer is approaching again. That means a rapid increase in thunderstorm activity across the country. In this issue our goal is to help you not only understand the parts of a storm but also whats going on underneath the hood and what it means for the forecast. The information also might help save your bacon when things go downhill unexpectedly and all the data you have is whats out the window.

BasicMed Safety Pilot

When we got BasicMed, something wed done for a long time was taken away. BasicMed applies to acting as pilot in command. But, with BasicMed youre not legal to act as a safety pilot for your buddy whos under the hood practicing approaches in VMC. So, you exercise the workaround of agreeing ahead of time that you, the safety pilot, are indeed the PIC for this flight (more on that in a moment), then youre once again good to go even with BasicMed ... if, that is, the aircraft insurance agrees. Lets look more carefully at all this.

Cell Encounterpoint

The answer given in question 2 of the quiz in your November 2018 issue (continue to fly straight through the storm) is incorrect. Fifty years ago I wrote and published the initial research papers on transmitting weather information into the cockpit after almost losing my life due to a thunderstorm. As a nationally recognized aviation radar/weather spokesperson, I continue to educate and update pilots around the country as the program progresses. The history of the Datalink program is best presented by AOPAs video on YouTube. Search for datalink concept to cockpit.

A Stability Refresher

While stability and instability dont always cause weather, they leave a mark on even VFR forecasts in many subtle ways, and they influence everything from wind gusts to cloud layers. Even in forecast models, there are always complex equations that factor in stability. Stability is important enough that an entire chapter is dedicated to it in the FAAs Aviation Meteorology circular. For meteorologists, a chart known as the Skew-T diagram is used every day at forecast centers. Its literally a worksheet that helps forecasters visualize the days stability and make calculations on it.

Ceiling and Visibility

These early pilots depended on a network of rotating beacon towers at four-mile intervals, like lighthouses in the sky. These facilities, operated by the federal government, used lamps powered by cylinders of acetylene. Simply by following the route from beacon to beacon, a pilot could arrive safely at the destination. Weather could be avoided because the planes flew at low altitudes, and illuminated diversion airfields were placed at frequent intervals. If the pilot felt things were deteriorating, he could be on the ground in less than 10 minutes.

Weather Observations

The ASOS system was developed in the late 1980s to relieve the expense of maintaining human observers at hundreds of sites, improve consistency of observations, and bring high-quality observations to rural and remote airports. Much like NEXRAD it was a joint product of the FAA, NWS, and DoD, and was fielded at 1000 US airports between 1991 and 2004. Its main components are temperature, dewpoint, and wind sensors, along with new technology like sky condition, present weather, and visibility sensors.

Readback: January 2019

Another good rule of thumb is Buys Bullots law: To locate where the bad weather is coming from, put your back to the wind and extend your left arm straight out. Thats where the low pressure bad WX is coming from. It works for me.

Stupid Pilot Tricks: 2019

Yep, its time to make fun of those who in 2015 ignored sound judgment and lived to garner pilot lounge derision. And, since pilots tend to repeat the same mistakes in hopes of different results, we heed George Orwell who said, We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men. Since no intelligent man or woman stepped forward, its up to me.

The Day the Music Died

Unless youre under age 30 or live in a remote village in Mongolia, youve likely heard the 1971 Don McLean song American Pie, in which the events on the night of February 2-3, 1959 are recalled. That night, three of Americas top rock musicians died in a tragic aviation accident in Iowa. The accident is ingrained in American culture. I cant think of a better example of an accident worth researching for lessons to learn.

Knowing Ice – Again

There are rules about flight into known or forecast icing conditions for Part 135 and 121 operators, but there is nothing in Volume 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (commonly called the Federal Aviation Regulations) specifically prohibiting Part 91 flight into known icing. Instead, we look to 91.9(a). This prohibits us from operating an aircraft contrary to its published operating limitations. Add a dose of careless and reckless conduct from 91.13, and you have a better picture of the regulatory background.

Too Old…For What?

Like many of you, I also ride motorcycles. I have two Hondas, one of which is 25 years old but still suits me quite well. Due to a confluence of some logistical and health challenges, now past, I hadnt ridden in a few years. Late this past summer I again undertook two-wheeled transportation.

Briefing: January 2019

When a Lion Air Boeing 737 Max 8 with only 800 hours crashed into the ocean in November, killing all 189 on board, the event raised a lot of questions. It behaved erratically in flight before the crew lost control, and several crews had reported problems with the airplane in the days before.