Avoiding the Storm
I don’t know if it’s global warming or just good old summertime, but the amount of convective weather and the vehemence of it seem to be increasing. In any event, I had an interesting experience on the airlines last week. My return flight from Denver to Baltimore was delayed due to storms over the arrival gates into the DC area. Flow control and SWAP routes (Severe Weather Avoidance Program) were obviously in effect. The concept is both brilliant and simple. It also makes me wonder how NextGen will solve the problem of 98% efficient airspace that loses 30% of its capacity to weather for three hours—seems like delays are inevitable, although you wouldn’t know that by press releases and position papers about how the new system will solve all things ATC.
Our flight was not even boarded when the delay was announced about an hour beforehand. No point in putting more aircraft aloft and into a narrow corridor between storms than what the system can handle. It’s something that GA pilots could ponder. Airline dispatchers and the FAA’s Command Center in DC coordinate, and voila, a plan is conceived to get everyone where they want to go—it just may not be when you want to get there. Wonder if that could be worked into our flight planning software, and perhaps Flight Service could help the VFR types?
Sitting in a window seat aboard the Airbus 319, it was obvious as we approached the area. The captain asked everyone to sit including the flight attendants (I’m always amazed at the fools who then decide they just have to visit the loo). We were in and out of the clouds, even above FL350, and the maneuvering began. Long story slightly longer, after landing I spoke to the captain walking through the terminal and complimented him on not hitting a single bump. He laughed and said the beast looked bad on their onboard radar. Of course, I had to tweak him a bit about not having datalink weather in the cockpit of one of the most advanced airliners.
I’m sure FAA management has a good reason for not allowing airlines to use Nexrad weather on iPads (which they do allow now on the flight deck). Perhaps it’s because they haven’t had the opportunity to “certify” it to the Nth degree. We can be forever grateful in GA “that we don’t get all the government we pay for” (per Will Rogers), although GA’s plate is probably overflowing in that regard.
Not Avoiding the Storm
Early returns (with the usual caveats about preliminary accident speculation) show that a King Air and a Piper Lance were lost last week in Texas and Mississippi due to in-flight breakups near or in thunderstorms—despite all the warnings of the Air Safety Institute’s Storm Week coverage on AOPA Live and the online courses. If anyone has some better ideas on how to help a few pilots understand that deliberately flying in the good ol’ big ones is neither life prolonging nor career enhancing, I’d love to hear it.