Weather Geek

Deep dark weather secrets about fog are really no mystery

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It’s not accurate to say that Mother Nature keeps secrets. However, it is spot on to say that Mother Nature harbors all manner of surprises for pilots who fly on without making an effort to develop some personal weather wisdom. One key is in understanding that what you see and feel is what you get, regardless of what is forecast.

Weather forecasts – there’s more to it than just charts

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On two recent occasions, I have spent my day staring down FAR 121.613. Both cases required a more in-depth study of the day’s weather than a simple scan of the TAF. Regardless of which part of the FARs you are operating under, the area forecast discussions put out by local forecasters are incredibly valuable when preparing for a day’s flying. They will give you the feel of a personal briefing.

In-flight icing’s hidden threat: the landing flare

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Following uncontrolled collisions with the ground, hard landings are the second most prevalent outcome attributable to structural icing. Unlike the uncontrolled collision data, hard landing events are generally well documented; almost no one is fatally injured, and the sequence of events and aircraft response is pretty easy to map out. This set of data may give us a window into an obscure and overlooked aspect of aerodynamic icing… drag rise as a function of angle of attack.

Area Forecast replacement – what does it really say?

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The old Area Forecast (FA) is going away, and I for one say good riddance. This textual forecast product has plenty of valuable information, but its ALL CAP format is a leftover from a previous era, making it a pain to use. Besides, almost everything in the FA can be found elsewhere these days. Everything, that is, except cloud top forecasts.

Icing: the cold, hard (air) facts

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There is a saying that goes, “In aviation there are three kinds of ice: good, bad, and hazardous. The good ice is found in the galley.” Most of us are not flying airplanes with galleys, but you get the point. So any ice on the outside of an aircraft is either bad or downright hazardous. Here’s how to avoid it – no matter what time of year it is.

Long range weather planning tools – 4 favorites

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All of us spend a lot of time poring over radar images, METARs and TAFs. But the focus is almost always on the short term weather products: can I fly right now? However, with some upgraded apps and websites becoming publicly available, there are more options than ever for long range weather planning. Here are four favorites.

Using historical weather data to learn

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As pilots, we spend a lot of time reviewing the weather before a flight–you might even say some pilots obsess about it. But very few pilots spend any time looking at the weather after a flight. That’s a shame, because there’s much to learn from a post-flight analysis and there are some new tools that make it quite easy.

Thunderstorm flying in the age of datalink weather

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Datalink radar or onboard radar? XM or ADS-B? Panel mount display or iPad? The options for receiving and viewing in-flight weather have never been greater, with a proliferation of affordable and capable avionics. Which one is best? And what’s the right way to use each tool?

7-day VFR cross country weather planning

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In the past two years we have completed a long VFR trip successfully five times. How have we done so well on such a long trip VFR when the weather is so unpredictable? We have a multi-level system and we follow it. It is not perfect but it works.

Top tip: get a “big picture” weather briefing

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Checking the weather is one of the few constants in aviation. Pilots of all experience levels do it, whether it’s a trip around the pattern in a Cub or a trip across the Atlantic in a Gulfstream. But how do you get a good weather briefing? Is a look at the current METAR enough?

Weather.aero – a valuable new aviation weather website

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Imagine a weather website just for pilots with a variety of useful tools and some nice graphical weather charts. Imagine this website is free and provided by the US government. Now imagine (most shocking of all) that this website is actually attractive, well-designed and easy to use. It’s here.

10 great online weather tools you may not know about

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For true weather geeks, a pre-flight weather briefing can be a lot of fun, not just a requirement to be completed as quickly as possible. Everyone has their list of favorite weather sites, but here is my top 10 list of useful weather websites that aren’t as well known as they should be.

A what? An exciting bit of weather action

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I don’t spend much time watching TV news but my wife keeps it playing at times. I kept overhearing a new word (to me) after the June 29th storm that turned out lights from the middle west to the East Coast. The word sounded to me like “deratio” but Wikipedia lists “de-ray-cho” as the correct pronunciation.

4 or 6 or 8 things to think about for summertime flying

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A thunderstorm is, by nature, unstable. That relates both to the atmosphere that creates and supports it and to the capricious nature of the storm. They are constantly changing, literally from moment to moment, and where one flight might pass through with a bit of turbulence, one a minute later might encounter a severe wind shear.

Weather Geek: rules to fly by

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Richard Collins has spent over 20,000 hours up close and personal with weather. In this article, he shares one guiding principle for dealing with weather–what you see and feel is what you get. Based on that, he offers 10 more rules for weather flying.

The Weather Geek: hello low

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Let’s get the geek business out of the way first. If a person who has an abiding interest in weather, especially as it relates to flight operations, is a geek, then I am a weather geek. Highs and lows are what make the weather engine go. Highs aren’t exciting, lows can be full of thrills. I was reminded of this when we had that October snowstorm in the northeast.