Fast and furious
Thunderstorms didn't get their fearsome reputation just from the extreme conditions a pilot can encounter by stumbling into, or too close to one. The reputation also hints at the speed at which thunderstorms can grow from puffy cumulus clouds into giant, opaque cumulonimbus.
That speed of growth is important because it helps you set a freshness date on your weather briefing and periodic updates. Since it doesn't take long for convective conditions to develop, any conditions conducive to convection in your flight's weather profile deserve constant monitoring.
Even if thunderstorms are not specifically mentioned in your briefing, indicators—high dew points, an unstable atmosphere, an approaching front—should put you on alert. If you will depart in a hazy, stable air mass with reduced visibility and fly toward an advancing front, be wary of embedded weather hazards.
Just before heading out, give weather radar a final glance on a computer terminal; animating the display will show you the speed, direction and intensity of areas of precip. Not available? Then make sure you can read and decode a radar weather report (RAREP). There is an example on page 12-10 of the Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge.
Once airborne, remember that a squall line can develop ahead of an advancing front—also with little warning. Note the navaids that transmit hazardous in-flight weather advisory service broadcasts; a HIWAS broadcast may be your first clue that conditions are changing for the worse.
One of the many benefits of receiving flight following services from ATC is hearing any announcement that a convective sigmet has been issued. Follow up with HIWAS, or give flight watch a call.
Perilous is any decision to land in haste at an airport in the path of an approaching storm. If you win the race to the airport, a gust front—or worse, a microburst—could still beat you to the punch.
"The wind's downward movement is part of the danger when an aircraft flies into a microburst. But, the biggest danger is a sudden shift in wind direction," wrote meteorologist Jack Williams in this installment of "The Weather Never Sleeps" in Flight Training magazine.
In any scenario involving thunderstorms, safety requires putting as much distance as possible between you and the rough stuff. Some pilots try to shave that margin. That's a losing bet.
King Schools offers sport pilot test prep
The King Schools Sport Pilot Practical Test Course on CD shows students exactly what the FAA wants you to demonstrate to earn your rating. The course shows you a real-world practical test, including both the oral and flight portions. The course costs $119.
FAA offers GA pilot weather guide
The FAA offers the General Aviation Pilot's Guide to Preflight Weather Planning, Weather Self-Briefings, and Weather Decision Making. The guide is intended to help GA pilots, especially those with relatively little weather-flying experience, develop skills in obtaining appropriate weather information, interpreting the data in the context of a specific flight, and applying the information and analysis to make safe weather flying decisions.
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: I am a flight instructor and I hold instrument and airplane/single-engine, land ratings on my flight instructor certificate. Can I can give instrument instruction in a multiengine airplane since I hold airplane/multiengine, land on my commercial pilot certificate and I'm not giving any instruction that will lead to a multiengine rating?
Answer: No, FAR 61.195 states that a flight instructor may not conduct flight training in any aircraft for which the flight instructor does not hold a pilot certificate and flight instructor certificate with the applicable category and class ratings. So, in order for a CFII to teach instrument flying in a multiengine airplane, the CFII also needs to hold multiengine privileges on his or her flight instructor certificate. Here's a link to the regulation, FAR 61.195, if you'd like to take a look.
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.