The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) began a month-long test last week aimed at better predicting when and where thunderstorms might tear their way across Colorado’s Front Range and adjacent Great Plains region. The research uses high-altitude aircraft to improve storm lead times, especially in the crucial six- to 24-hour window before storm formation.
As thunderstorm season approaches in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s worth remembering how weather-radar technology has improved in the past three decades. Southern Airways Flight 242, a McDonnell Douglas DC-9, crashed in Pauling County outside Atlanta on April 4, 1977, after flying directly into a severe thunderstorm, calling attention to the then little understood issue of radar signal attenuation in areas of heavy precipitation.
When Gulfstream’s G650 enters service later this year, pilots will find a pleasant surprise, a Honeywell RDR 4000 3-D weather radar that is far easier to operate than earlier systems. The radar has been flying for a few years on airliners, and the G650 is the first business jet application. New features just implemented on the RDR 4000 include turbulence detection, hail and lightning display and a new attenuation display.
Hawker Beechcraft King Air B100, Corpus Christi, Texas, Oct. 26, 2009–N729MS, registered to Mazak Properties, was destroyed and the private pilot and three passengers killed when the airplane crashed after encountering severe weather. Before departure, the pilot, who was operating under Part 91, received three weather briefings from an automated flight service station.
Forty-seven passengers aboard an ExpressJet Embraer ERJ 145 bound for Minneapolis from Houston spent six hours on the tarmac in Rochester, Minn., during the early morning of August 10 due to thunderstorms at their planned destination. Some
Twelve aircraft, including five commercial and several corporate jets, were damaged during a severe thunderstorm that ripped through Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on July 14, ushering in the Arizona monsoon season and shutting down the airport for three hours. The north runway remained closed until noon the next day.
Mitsubishi MU-2B-40, Bunnell, Fla., Aug. 25, 2006–The NTSB determined that the crash of the MU-2 resulted from an inadvertent encounter with thunderstorms. The commercial pilot, cruising at FL280, had received a sigmet about convective activity. His onboard weather radar was working, and Jacksonville Center was equipped with Nexrad-derived weather displays, which indicated weak to moderate echoes above FL240.
The FAA said last month that this summer it will greatly expand the airspace flow program (AFP), an initiative it implemented last summer to better manage airline delays associated with summer thunderstorms. In all, seven combinations were available for use last year, mainly to meter the flow of traffic to the Northeast. This year operators can expect 18 separate geographic possibilities when the program expands to the Midwest.
The FAA said yesterday it will greatly expand the airspace flow program (AFP) this summer, an initiative implemented last summer as a better way to manage airline delays associated with summer thunderstorms. In all, seven combinations were available for use last year, mainly to meter the flow of traffic to the Northeast. This year operators can expect 18 separate geographic possibilities when the program expands to the Midwest.
Archie Trammell, former magazine editor turned radar and convective weather expert, has added a bimonthly online magazine to supplement his long-running radar seminars. The new publication, at www.radar4pilots.com, contains references to weather research studies and articles.