Thunderstorms: Three kinds of bad

April 11, 2008

Thunderstorms: Three kinds of bad

By Alyssa J. Miller

Few other places in the country are pilots as aware of thunderstorms as they are in Florida. So Sun ’n Fun was the perfect place for AOPA Air Safety Foundation Executive Director Bruce Landsberg to find a captive audience to discuss thunderstorm avoidance.

“There are three kinds of thunderstorms: Bad, worse, and impossible,” Landsberg told a crowd outside AOPA’s Big Yellow Tent on Friday. “For those of us flying light airplanes, avoidance is the best strategy.”

Landsberg drove home the severity of the storms by explaining that even the airlines—much bigger aircraft, more sophisticated in-cockpit technology—go to great lengths to avoid thunderstorms.

Pilots have many tools available to help them avoid thunderstorms, including air traffic control. But pilots also need to plan and understand the weather situation with which they are dealing. Are the storms scattered? When are the expected to occur and when?

In some cases, pilots might be able to add 100 to 150 miles to their trip to get around the weather, Landsberg explained.

He also discussed approach and center radar, along with the strengths and weaknesses of both.

Landsberg encouraged pilots to get a better understanding of thunderstorms by taking the foundation’s Weather Wise: Thunderstorms & ATC online course and visiting the thunderstorm awareness resources page.

April 11, 2008