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Looking for the airport from several miles out on a hot, humid afternoon, it’s not easy to judge how close to the field those dark cumulus clouds up ahead really are. The airport’s automated weather report may mention high ceilings and moderate winds, but how long will those manageable conditions last? It’s not yet a question of making an unwise dash to beat incoming weather, but it is time to be cautious.
You may remember from studying weather in ground school that thunderstorms are not just a direct hazard to aircraft. Their effects can be felt at a considerable distance from active cells. Hail can be ejected from a thunderstorm as far as 20 miles from the cloud, as described in the July 17, 2009, “Training Tip: Hail.”
Not all thunderstorms produce hail, but you can count on turbulence from a gust front. Nor does it require special study of aviation weather to visualize a gust front; any pilot who has ever stood outside and noticed changes with a storm’s approach has had a first-hand look.
“If you've been on the ground when thunderstorms are in the neighborhood, you've probably felt a cool breeze, maybe a breeze that changes the wind's direction,” wrote meteorologist Jack Williams in the December 2007 Flight Training. “This is the gust front created by a downburst and when you're on the ground on a muggy day, you appreciate the cooling effect. If you're on final approach or just taking off when a gust front hits, you might wish you were on the ground, at least for a few moments.”
The conditions described are a form of wind shear, which comes in three varieties—increased headwinds, decreased headwinds, and downdrafts that could occur without warning. “Do not take off or land if a shaft of rain covers an airport or its departure or approach corridors,” advises the discussion of turbulence in AOPA’s Handbook for Pilots.
The Air Safety Institute’s interactive safety course WeatherWise: Thunderstorms and ATC shows how air traffic control may be able to help you make the right call. If you are out of contact when pondering a grim view ahead, consider diverting, or turning around. Don’t risk a nasty surprise that can arrive on a gust front’s breeze.
YOUR PARTNER IN TRAINING
Summer has arrived, and keeping cool in the cockpit is a major concern in many parts of the nation. You can avoid dehydration and ensuing fatigue by making sure you are thoroughly hydrated—in other words, drink lots of water. See this Flight Training article for more ideas on keeping cool.
Did you know that student pilots who join AOPA are three times more likely to complete their flight training? Membership includes unlimited access to aviation information by phone (800/USA-AOPA, weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time) or from Flight Training Online or AOPA Online. If you're not already a member, join today and get the pilot’s edge. Login information is available online.
Cirrus Aircraft has confirmed that it will sell 25 SR20 aircraft to the U.S. Air Force Academy at a total price tag of $6.1 million. The academy’s Powered Flight Program will receive the aircraft starting this summer and continuing through 2012. They will be based at the academy’s airfield in Colorado Springs, Colo. Read more >>
Four Able Flight scholars get their tickets
Four recipients of flight training scholarships from Able Flight earned their sport pilot certificates at the conclusion of this year’s five-week program at Purdue University. Working with Purdue flight instructors, the four endured weather delays and some mechanical difficulties, but all had ultimately completed the program by the first week in July. They trained in a Sky Arrow 600 and a Flight Design CT. Able Flight is a nonprofit organization for people with physical disabilities.
Find answers to this longstanding debate in the Air Safety Institute’s new Aerodynamics Safety Spotlight. As you explore the concept of why an airplane can stall at any airspeed or pitch attitude, you’ll really get to understand why when you discover the true meaning of “Alpha” and “critical AOA” in a recently recorded Webinar. Further boost your knowledge when you top it off with the institute’s Essential Aerodynamics: Stalls, Spins, and Safety online course, Safety Advisors, quizzes, and Pilot Safety Announcements.
Find the ‘Path to Pilothood’ at EAA AirVenture
The Experimental Aircraft Association’s fifty-eighth annual AirVenture fly-in at Wittman Field in Oshkosh, Wis., promises once again to deliver aviation’s unmatched thrills and excitement to thousands of pilots and other onlookers from July 25 to 31. For the many would-be aviators drawn to the displays and airshows who wonder how they can find their own way into the skies, AOPA will be on the scene to provide answers through the association’s exhibit in the EAA Learn to Fly Discovery Center. Read more >>
Eastern Michigan University is bringing its professional pilot program to Lansing, Mich., in partnership with Eagle Flight Center. Flight training will take place at Capital Region International Airport, which formerly hosted Lansing Community College’s (LCC) flight program. LCC cut that program, along with some others deemed too expensive, in the spring. Eastern Michigan and Eagle operate a similar partnership at Willow Run Airport in Detroit. Flight training also will be available for individuals who are not enrolled at the college. For more information, see the website.
You planned it out well in advance. You knew exactly every word you would say. You take a quick breath, press that push-to-talk button and … nothing. Your mouth hangs open, but the words, and even your breath, are stuck somewhere in your throat. Talking on the radio can be nerve-racking, especially when your brain is processing all of the other information it requires to fly an airplane. But confidence on the radio begins with a solid foundation of aviation communication. Start building that foundation now with the Air Safety Institute’s Say It Right: Mastering Radio Communication online course, sponsored by Lightspeed Aviation. Take the course >>
Fly more, spend less: Partner at AirVenture
If you don’t think you can afford to own an aircraft, think again and check out AOPA's newest offering, the Aircraft Partnership Program, at AOPA's tent at AirVenture. Using a secure database management system, the AOPA Aircraft Partnership Program helps pilots and aircraft owners identify, match, and connect with other pilots interested in reducing the cost of aircraft acquisition and ownership. Read more >>
Bank of America lowers costs for aircraft loans
Aircraft ownership may be closer than you think. The AOPA Aircraft Financing Program with financing provided by Bank of America has lowered its rates and closing fees. Bank of America makes the credit application process as easy as possible. You can apply online, and you’ll receive a quick decision. Before you apply, you can calculate your estimated monthly payment, or what you can afford, by using AOPA’s online loan payment calculator. Just input a few numbers and the calculation will be done for you. Read more >>
‘The Complete Private Pilot’ from ASA
New editions of The Complete Private Pilot textbook and syllabus are available from Aviation Supplies and Academics. Written by Bob Gardner, the eleventh edition of the textbook covers the requirements for becoming a sport, recreational, or private pilot. It includes tips, techniques, checklists, and mnemonic devices. The syllabus covers both ground and flight training and meets the experience and knowledge requirements for Part 61 and Part 141 programs. The Complete Private Pilot text retail price is $24.95 ( book) or $19.99 ( e-book). The retail price for the syllabus is $12.95, but it is also available as a free download in PDF format. See the website for more information.
Note: Products listed have not been evaluated by ePilot editors unless otherwise noted. AOPA assumes no responsibility for products or services listed or for claims or actions by manufacturers or vendors.
Question: Do the federal aviation regulations or Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) state the proper altitude to begin your turn from the departure leg to crosswind while staying in the traffic pattern? My flight instructor always told me it was the traffic pattern altitude (TPA) for the particular airport minus 300 feet. Was that just sound advice from my CFI, or can I find it anywhere in writing?
Answer: This has long been a topic of hangar conversations; however, the recommendation is clearly stated in Chapter 4 Section 3 of the AIM. It explains, “If remaining in the traffic pattern, commence turn to crosswind leg beyond the departure end of the runway within 300 feet of pattern altitude.” The AIM also defines the departure leg as “the flight path which begins after takeoff and continues straight ahead along the extended runway centerline. The departure climb continues until reaching a point at least one-half mile beyond the departure end of the runway and within 300 feet of the traffic pattern altitude.” So the AIM recommendation agrees with your flight instructor’s good advice to turn onto the crosswind leg once the departure leg is completed, which is 300 feet below pattern altitude.
Got a question for our technical services staff? Email email@example.com or call the Pilot Information Center, 800/872-2672. Don’t forget the online archive of “Final Exam” questions and answers, searchable by keyword or topic.
What’s New Online
AirVenture is just around the corner, and our Flight Training bloggers have Oshkosh on the brain. Chip Wright discusses job-search strategies you can use at the event, and AOPA Associate Editor Jill W. Tallman dispenses some first-timer’s tips to make it a great show.
AOPA Career Opportunities
Ever dream of turning your passion for aviation into a career? We’re looking for an application support engineer, Dot Net developer, and electronic advertising manager. To learn more about other AOPA career opportunities, visit AOPA Online.
Pilots love to take photos, and they love to share them with other pilots. Now you can upload your flying photos to our online gallery, “Air Mail.” Share your special aviation images, or view and rate more than 8,500 photos (and growing). Photos are put into rotation on the AOPA home page!
AVIATION EVENTS & WEATHER
Want something to do this weekend? Planning an aviation getaway? See your personalized online calendar of events . We’ve enhanced our calendar so that with one click you can see all of the events listed in the regions you selected when personalizing ePilot . Now you can browse events in your region to make planning easier. You can also bookmark the personalized calendar page to check it as often as you want. Before you take off on an adventure, make sure you check our current aviation weather provided by Jeppesen.
Flight Instructor Refresher Clinics
The next Air Safety Institute Flight Instructor Refresher Clinics are scheduled in Jacksonville, Fla., July 16 and 17; Newark, N.J., and Pittsburgh, Pa., July 23 and 24; Atlanta, Ga., and Fort Worth, Texas, Aug. 6 and 7; and Long Beach, Calif., and Allentown, Pa., Aug. 13 and 14. For a complete schedule, see AOPA Online.
Can’t make it in person? Sign up for the CFI Refresher Online.
Air Safety Institute Safety Seminars
Air Safety Institute Safety Seminars are scheduled in Oshkosh, Wis., July 27 and 28; Wichita, Kan., Germantown, Tenn., and Houston, Texas, Sept. 12; Bethany, Okla., Nasvhille, Tenn., and San Antonio, Texas, Sept. 13; and Fayetteville, Ark., Maryville, Tenn., and Austin, Texas, Sept. 14.
Topics vary—for details and a complete schedule, see AOPA Online.
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Editorial Team: ePilot Flight Training Editor : Jill W. Tallman | ePilot Editor: Sarah Brown | Contributor: Alton K. Marsh