Summer’s Bumpy Trips
Some general information about thunderstorms
Ah!, summer’s here and the ice has melted from the hangars and runways, and no snow storms are about, unless we fly to Alaska or further north!.
But now you say, oh! but I have to put up with those hot, bumpy flights, all the time in the summer *&#$!. We pilots also wish it wouldn’t occur as often as it seems to, but we think about them and plan for it way ahead of your trip. Those bumps may occur early and well before what’ coming next!. Read on. This will not alarm but will educate you!
The quick run through on thunderstorms, or convective build-ups, CB’s as we call them, sort of happens like this!. I’m not a meteorologist.
A moist unstable air mass, usually clear air aloft moves slowly eastward and overruns warm areas of our good earth. As the sun’s rays further warm the earth, the resulting hot air rises and meets this cold, unstable air mass above, and voila! visible vapor, and great gobs of convective clouds quickly rising to unimaginable heights! Within this boiling mass, water vapor expands exponentially, but is not yet a rain drop. That occurs when dust is swept aloft by winds that will then turn this water vapor into rain or, eh gads!, hail (another story). Anything that is too heavy to stay aloft, will drop out of the sky as rain or hail with mostly damaging effect. Those lower clouds may also become confused and begin to swirl like our water exiting the bath tub (yes, counter clockwise, if you live in the northern hemisphere). Now we may see the production of a tornado. Thankfully, these do not bother us aloft.
Mountain Aviation pilots have many weather tools at our disposal to project and plan for these thunderstorm areas, to provide a safe and hopefully not too bumpy ride. On the ground, even before a trip, we plan the most advantageous route around CB areas. We look for alternate airports should the one you wish to arrive at, is covered by storms. Before we depart, we will go over all this with you to be certain it meets your time constraints and pre planning. Once air-borne, all Mountain Aviation aircraft have on board weather radar, to see, in real time, where large thunderstorms abound. We may need to alter our course to stay at least 20 miles from the dangerous clouds and will advise air traffic control of our intentions to change course. I have never had a controller not give me any direction I wished, to stay away from CB’s. Your aircraft may indeed fly through and remain in clouds for some time, as there are wide areas of “safe clouds”, called blow off. These areas do not pose a threat, as mostly there are no damaging CB’s, but yes, the pesky bumps may remain. The radar and pilot’s trained interpretation, see us safely around the CB line of weather. Slowing the aircraft, at times will diminish the bumps to a degree.
Our crew go to considerable length when planning and operating in the summer months, to give you the safest ride possible and, oh yes!, bumps are not, “air pockets”, no such thing!.
By Chip Taft