Weather is unpredictable. And so are many of the pilots that deal with it. Here are a few safety tips to deal with some of the most common weather challenges:
Low Clouds Over Rolling Hills – Feeling brave? Then you better understand your capabilities. Or better yet, be smart too. Check out reports from other weather-related aircraft accidents in your local area and look for common threads. Recognizing the things these accidents share better enable you to make an objective go/no-go decision.
Ahead of the storm – Who doesn’t want to get ahead of the storm? This may sound great, but storms can change and peak in a hurry. Even on the periphery. Severe thunderstorm activity can produce strong gusts beyond its core that can suddenly reduce your 80-90 knot takeoff airspeed to a stall-inducing 21-31 knots.
Crazy thing about flying at night. It’s one of the most common times you can succumb to the somatogravic illusion, a.k.a. the “false climb illusion.” Our sense of motion and balance is heavily influenced by the semicircular canals in our inner ears which can betray you into thinking you’re in a climb when you don’t have visual cues as a backup. Next thing you know you’re clipping trees.
Taking A Look
A time-honored method of gauging the weather is to take off and experience it first-hand. If it’s too bad to continue, turn around and land back at your starting point. If it’s good enough to continue, constantly reassess that decision. As Kenny Rogers said, “You got to know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em.
Weather can be hazardous to airplanes. The real weather threat, however, is the way pilots approach weather-related go/no-go decisions