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10 Ways To Prepare For Bad Weather Before And During Your Flight

1) Watch the weather on the ground, and in the air

It's easy to keep an eye on the weather on the ground. And now with ASD-B, if you have a smartphone or tablet, and an ADS-B receiver in your plane, you can easily monitor it once you're airborne too.

ForeFlight

2) Avoid early afternoon flights

This rule of thumb doesn't always work, and avoiding afternoon flights isn't always practical, but surface heating starts in the late morning, adding to the recipe for thunderstorms. By avoiding flying during the early afternoon, you give yourself the best chance of avoiding convective weather.

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3) Pick diversion airports

If worse comes to worst, divert to a local airport. Make sure you plan ahead so you know the airport you are diverting to has services, and if possible, is close to a town with a hotel.

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4) Study the weather trends ahead of time

If you notice there are storms building miles along your route, make sure you study the storms movement and development over the course of a few hours. This will give you a good idea of which direction they may head, and what things might look like when you get there.

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5) Get a weather briefing

Weather briefers are experts in interpreting weather data, and giving you a thorough explanation of the overall weather situation. If you get a weather briefing an hour or two before your flight, make sure you take a second look at the weather before you depart. When it comes to convective weather, things can drastically change in just a few minutes.

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6) Use onboard radar

Most of us don't actually have weather radar on our aircraft. But a tablet and ADS-B is the next-best thing. Use it to your advantage.

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7) Slow down

When the weather is convective, it's usually pretty bumpy. Slow down to keep your passengers more comfortable, and to keep yourself out of the yellow arc if you're not in smooth air.

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8) Watch the tops

If you're flying near towering cumulus clouds, monitor the tops. If the cloud tops look defined, like cauliflower, then the cloud is still developing and could turn into a thunderstorm. If the cloud tops look undefined, similar to cotton balls, then it indicates the cloud has run out of energy and probably won't continue developing.

9) Keep your distance

The FAA suggests that you shouldn't fly closer than 20NM to any thunderstorm. Any closer, and you could find yourself in severe turbulence and hail.

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10) Be smart

If you don't feel like it's safe, don't go. And if you're already airborne, divert. Never let compulsion take the place of good judgment.

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What other tactics can keep you in the clear? Tell us what you use in the comments.

Corey Komarec

Corey is an Embraer 175 First Officer for a regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota, and he's been flying since he was 16. You can reach him at corey@boldmethod.com.

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