Summer is finally here, bringing with it plenty of sunshine. Unfortunately, this time of year also brings the threat of thunderstorms, haze, and turbulence. No pilot wants to be surprised by a bout of bad summer storms, but there are ways to mitigate the dangers of ugly flying weather. If you have a clear avoidance or escape strategy planned, you can avoid in-air anxiety and reach your destination safely. Here are a few things to keep in mind when dealing with summer flight weather.
The best time to avoid getting caught near a storm is before you leave the ground. There are plenty of resources to help you monitor the weather, from smartphone apps to local television and flight service briefers. It should go without saying, but always make sure you obtain a solid pre-flight weather briefing and keep updated as much as possible.
Heat causes thunderstorms and turbulence to rise, so the sooner you can get in the air, the better. The most dangerous time of day for thunderstorms is typically 5 to 7 p.m. Flying early helps you avoid the risk of encountering a dangerous storm.
Even the most seasoned pilots can occasionally encounter a storm. According to the FAA, you can encounter hail and violent turbulence within 20 miles of very strong thunderstorms. The first thing to do when caught in a storm is to reduce airspeed immediately to maneuvering speed (VA) and tighten seatbelts and shoulder harnesses. Experts also suggest staying on the same heading when you run into a storm instead of turning around.
Keeping calm and using your best judgment is key to avoiding thunderstorms and other dangerous summer weather. Be well prepared, and above all else, have fun. After all, flying season is meant to be enjoyed! Take advantage of the best resources to stay safe in the air and as always, happy flying.