Aviation Weather Review Prevent Risks
Too often, preventable aircraft accidents occur due to reckless behavior from pilots, such as flying in aviation weather beyond their experience level, neglecting pre-flight checks, or carelessly running out of fuel. However, nothing is as frustrating as watching a pilot take off into dangerous weather that could have been avoided with a short delay on the ground.
In fact, if there is any question regarding the safety of a flight, passengers should not be loaded onto the aircraft. Instead, pilots should take the time to assess weather conditions from the safety of a comfortable FBO while enjoying a cup of coffee.
Beechcraft King Air 200 Accident
Recently, the pilot of a Beechcraft King Air 200 was in a hurry to depart from Little Rock International Airport. Despite receiving three weather advisories for low-level windshear, the pilot made the unfortunate decision to depart into rapidly deteriorating weather, ultimately resulting in the loss of all five people onboard.
Video footage captured the heartbreaking scene as the airplane became airborne and started the initial climb, only to disappear as a plume of smoke rose just one mile south of the runway. The camera shook from strong wind gusts and blowing debris, and heavy rain obscured the screen.
It is incredible to consider how just one or two extra minutes of waiting could have saved lives. It is disheartening to think that if the pilot had held off for a few minutes longer, the aircraft may have survived the encounter with the gust front.
The lesson here is clear: prioritize safety and intelligence over haste in all circumstances.
Tips for Flying Near Dangerous Aviation Weather
To minimize or eliminate risk when flying near or around dangerous aviation weather, pilots should follow these tips:
- Check the latest weather reports, including charts and radar information, to identify any potential hazards along the planned route of flight.
- Be prepared to delay or cancel a flight in the event of dangerous weather conditions.
- Identify safe diversions routes, such as airports or areas of clear weather, and ensure they are included in the flight plan.
- Use weather radar systems, satellite images, and other tools to identify and stay clear of hazardous weather systems.
- Maintain a safe altitude whenever possible to avoid turbulence or severe weather cells.
- Monitor weather conditions throughout the flight and be prepared to make changes on-the-fly to ensure safety.
- Follow all air traffic control instructions to avoid weather hazards.
Symptoms of Severe Conditions
- Turbulence: Symptoms include the sudden up-and-down movement of the aircraft or a feeling of being lifted out of the seat. React by following the aircraft’s turbulence guidelines or deviating to a smoother altitude or route.
- Icing: Symptoms include decreased airspeed, loss of altitude, difficulties controlling the airplane, and ice buildup. React by following the aircraft’s de-icing procedures or finding a way to avoid the icing conditions.
- Hail: Symptoms include loud banging noises, a change in engine noise, and visible damage to the aircraft’s exterior. React by immediately using all available tools to find a route out of the hailstorm and land as soon as safely possible.
If You’re in the Soup
- Changing Altitude: One of the most useful and readily available maneuvers for pilots in dangerous weather is to adjust the airplane’s altitude. Depending on the type of weather involved, flying higher may be the safest option, while flying lower may be necessary in other situations.
- Picking a Different Flight Route: If alternative routes are available that will take the airplane around dangerous weather, pilots should opt for those routes rather than risking encountering difficult weather conditions en route.
- Adjusting Airspeed: If the airplane needs to be slowed down or sped up to help manage difficult weather conditions, pilots should adjust the airspeed as necessary to keep the airplane stable.
- Changing Course: Pilots may need to make adjustments to the flight path to deviate from dangerous weather. In such cases, pilots should quickly run through the necessary maneuvers to accomplish this as smoothly as possible.
- Use Weather Radar: Pilots can utilize onboard weather radar to gain a better understanding of weather patterns in real-time. This can be a useful tool to navigate around areas of hazardous weather.
- Descent and Ascent Maneuvers: Pilots can utilize descent and ascent maneuvers to gain a better understanding of weather patterns in real-time. Descending can help pilots get below cloud layers or into more stable air when needed, while ascending can help pilots get above potentially hazardous weather conditions.
- Diversions to Alternative Airports: In some instances, conditions may be too hazardous to continue flying. In such cases, pilots must have alternative landing sites ready to divert the airplane away from hazardous weather conditions.
By following these tips, pilots can minimize or eliminate risk when flying near dangerous aviation weather conditions. Regular training and review of hazardous weather procedures can help to increase pilot safety mindfulness and confidence while operating in such conditions.
It’s essential for pilots to exercise intelligence, knowledge and vigilance when facing hazardous weather situations. Taking the proper steps necessary to ensure a safe flight is critical to protecting passengers and aircraft from harm. Analyzing surrounding conditions and accurately interpreting data can determine how best to maneuver through dangerous weather. Additionally, understanding the fundamentals of these potential conflicts allows for route planning, speed adjustments and other decisions geared toward safety. With rapid changes in climatic conditions, there’s no set procedure on how to handle each situation; rather it’s important that pilots maintain situational awareness as they manage challenging moments during their flights. Lastly, making sure to fly with caution is imperative while in or near dangerous aviation weather areas.