March 25, 2013
In 1995 I was dispatched to fly a CL601-3A from KFXE to MYNN to KFXE and on to KJAX. The airplane had suffered an intermittent radar failure that was not communicated to me. I had opportunity to check the weather each time at FXE. The flight to MYNN and back was cloud-free. The radar picture that I saw on the ground at FXE prior to takeoff for JAX indicated a few small cells in the vicinity of PBI and northward along the coast, the typical afternoon sea breeze front. A satellite image that I saw showed cloud cover to the right of a line from the MIA VOR to the ORL VOR. It indicated clear skies to the west of that line. As I departed FXE, the aircraft radar painted the cells near PBI that the brief had revealed. As I climbed heading for Orlando, the radar returns diminished until the sweeping antennae revealed nothing. I entered IMC in the climb and leveled at FL290 per the MIA Center clearance. The radar was my only means to see ahead and it indicated the way was clear. Unfortunately, it lied. Over Orlando, still IMC, the aircraft was jolted moderately with that particular energy of turbulence associated with serious convection. It is an energy that says that there is a lot more available and very near at hand. A quick check of the radar indicated there was nothing of concern at hand. Then the hail came and it broke both outer windscreens. Much more violent turbulence struck at about the same time.
Remembering at once that conventional wisdom when blundering into TRWs dictates a course straight ahead and the earlier satellite photo that indicated clear skies just west of my present position, I started a descent while turning to the left. I hoped to leave the hail behind and in the next instant I popped out into clear air. The center was with us throughout the ordeal, issuing the clearances and inquiring as to our condition. I slowed the airplane down as we continued to descend because we were unsure as to the condition of the pressure vessel. After a normal landing in Jax our inspection revealed damage to the radome, wing leading edges, engine inlets, and empennage. A ferry permit was required to remove the aircraft for very expensive repair. They fixed the radar after that too. It cost a lot to find the offending part and more to replace it, but even the cost of an entire new system wouldn't have been near the cost to repair the hail damage. It turned out that one of the passengers on that leg was along for his first ever aircraft flight.
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