When you're flying deep within the clouds, it can be hard to tell the benign from the threatening until it's too late. Air traffic control can help - but only if you understand their capabilities and limitations. The AOPA Air Safety Foundation's newly updated Thunderstorms: A Case Study minicourse can give you the information you need to fly safely when thunderstorms are in the forecast.
The course focuses on the importance of proper communications, including verifying with each controller you are handed off to exactly what services you will receive. This can help minimize the chances of a misunderstanding.
The four-minute course also contains actual ATC transmissions between controllers and a pilot who flew into a Level 6 thunderstorm with tragic results. The audio dramatically illustrates the need for clear pilot-ATC communication and understanding of radar services provided.
Updates to the course will help you understand ATC's weather capabilities and how to use them to your advantage. You'll also learn about ATC services and the importance of giving pilot reports. A list of weather- and ATC-related subjects at the end of the course leads you to more information.
The course is just one of the many free training programs available in the AOPA Online Safety Center.
September 26, 2005