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Lesson in Thunderstorm Avoidance


201er
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Hey folks, I had some interesting flights in my Mooney to and from Springfield Illinois that I wanted to share with you. The trip down to Springfield was pretty uneventful. Just an IFR departure off 9 at Linden (across EWR departures). Ceilings were about 800 overcast, tops 5,000ft. Once on top, stayed on top the whole way there and got vectored down for a visual into Springfield.

 

 

We saw a B-17 flying around the field and inquired about it to find out that EAA was doing rides in it. We signed up for a flight on Saturday right before our departure since we'd be at the airport anyway. Springfield is a nice city with more to see than you might expect. A lot of Abraham Lincoln history obviously.

 

 

The B-17 rides were running a bit behind schedule and thunderstorms were already developing on the route with convective watches across the entire northeast! I went ahead and taxieed my Mooney from the distant FBO where I parked to Landmark which was hosting the B17 so we could depart immediately after the ride. The B-17 flight was unbelievable and everything you'd expect from a Flying Fortress! I'll let the video do the talking because I can't even begin to convey how awesome it was.

 

mooney-b17.jpg

 

Now onto the topic of the day, thunderstorms. This was a particularly interesting flight because there were a lot of thunderstorms, they were detectable and visible, and with a few deviations, we were able to make it through just fine. Originally I filed direct but I figured deviations would be necessary in the span of the 5 hour non-stop flight. Luckily I've had my ipad and ads-b weather a few months now and would be able to track the progress of thunderstorms as we moved on.

 

faware.jpg

 

Shortly after takeoff from Springfield, departure advised me of a convective sigmet south of Fort Wayne and basically on my direct route. I waited a minute to get picture on the ipad do download from ads-b and determined that a deviation via Cincinnati would keep me clear of that storm and put me back on route to Linden. For a while it seemed like I planned a deviation too far south of the storm and could cut back in. But along with the massive tailwind that was driving me south, the thunderstorms were moving that direction as well. It turned out prudent that I continued the deviation because it had me pass at a modest but visible distance from the thunderstorm.

 

At the same time as passing the massive thunderstorm to the north, I was also passing a thunderstorm further south that I was less concerned with as it wasn't on the way. However, looking both left and right I could see thunderstorms on either side as I passed through the comfortably wide 70+ mile gap. A few hours later I noted the weather radar and saw that the gap had closed and was unpassable so we made it through in time.

 

t_storm.jpg

Left thunderstorm to the north, middle adsb ipad view, right thunderstorm to the south

 

We continued on to Pittsburgh without any run ins with major weather but then passed a trio of thunderstorms about 50 miles away. These did not play a role in my flight but it was a very clear illustration of what a thunderstorm looks like on radar, stormscope, and out the window! Check out this photo of the three distinct thunderstorms, adsb radar, and wx500 stormscope view of the convection activity.

 

t_storm2.jpg

 

Finally the last thunderstorm of the day required yet another deviation as it was right on course. I was monitoring it on radar for a while but not changing course. While we were hours out, there was no point in changing course as the storm could move or dissipate by then. But it only grew stronger while remaining mostly stagnant. So one more time I amended my IFR and added SEG as a waypoint to take me around the storm. This one was pretty small but very distinct. The adsb weather radar picture and visual concurred on location, shape, and strength. Interestingly, the stormscope did not distinguish this thunderstorm. This is probably because it was already in the mature stage with severe precipitation but not convection. The stormscope as littered with loads of other activity far away that I was already familiar with.

 

t_storm3.jpg

 

Flight ended with a GPS approach and visual landing into Linden. Because of good tailwinds, even with deviations I ended up arriving ahead of time. A nice conclusion to a very nice trip. I am definitely liking this combination of adsb radar + stormscope. But nothing beats having a visual on the storms and using the technology only for awareness and planning. Still not comfortable flying in IMC with embedded thunderstorms but this was a great comparison and educational experience. And that's why I want to share it with you and open this for further discussion of thunderstorm avoidance.

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201er Nice write up.

 

I have an IFR question for other IFR pilots out there.

While flying IFR such 201er did and you ask ATC for deviations for weather and they say “deviations left or right of course are approved”.

 

 

How far left or right of your course can you go?

 

 

My thoughts are if they did not give a limitation then you could proceed as far as necessary sort of like your flight actual flight path shows and assuming you have radar coverage.

I had a similar deviation on my way home from EFD last week.  I deviated quite a bit and at one point advised I was direct to a point on my course and then worked my way back to being direct to my destination.

 

I would suspect that without radar coverage it would be different.

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All of my deviations were based on a VOR fix that I found to most conveniently represent the course change I had in mind. This is also a good idea in case of IFR coomunications failure. I think the "deviations off course approved" are more for short term going around a specific cloud, not for dipping 100 miles south like I did.

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All of my deviations were based on a VOR fix that I found to most conveniently represent the course change I had in mind. This is also a good idea in case of IFR coomunications failure. I think the "deviations off course approved" are more for short term going around a specific cloud, not for dipping 100 miles south like I did.

I guess that makes sense my devations were only about 20 miles off course but for an extend period of time.

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I hope your flight was memorable but not nearly as much as this group of passengers. They most certainly got a little extra excitement with the lose of the outboard port engine. 

 

The plane is now down for repairs in Port Clinton, Ohio KPCW. Obviously, they landed without incident.

post-6909-0-05010500-1378244935_thumb.jp

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Enjoyed the posting.  We sure have better tools today than in the past.  I used to pick my way through holes in a line of thunderstorms in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida using my Stormscope, ATC advisories, and eyes, but XM weather and ADS-B have sure improved things.(Not to mention overlays on moving maps like the GTN 750)  One thing I learned: Stay at least 25 miles away from the nearest large thunderstorm.  I was at just about that distance (in the flight levels) when I had a clear air lightning strike.  I will never forget it for several reasons. 1. the autopilot pitch servo commanded full down, 2. I lost the gyros, and the electrical bus melted. 3. In losing about 400 feet before recovery, the ATC "snitch" activated, and because I was too stupid to declare an emergency, I spent 14 months hassling with the FAA to avoid a 30 day suspension of my license, at a FISDO at the opposite end of the country from my home base. I ultimately won, but at considerable expense in excess of the AOPA limit, and with several trips across the country to argue my case. 

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Enjoyed the posting.  We sure have better tools today than in the past.  I used to pick my way through holes in a line of thunderstorms in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida using my Stormscope, ATC advisories, and eyes, but XM weather and ADS-B have sure improved things.(Not to mention overlays on moving maps like the GTN 750)  One thing I learned: Stay at least 25 miles away from the nearest large thunderstorm.  I was at just about that distance (in the flight levels) when I had a clear air lightning strike.  I will never forget it for several reasons. 1. the autopilot pitch servo commanded full down, 2. I lost the gyros, and the electrical bus melted. 3. In losing about 400 feet before recovery, the ATC "snitch" activated, and because I was too stupid to declare an emergency, I spent 14 months hassling with the FAA to avoid a 30 day suspension of my license, at a FISDO at the opposite end of the country from my home base. I ultimately won, but at considerable expense in excess of the AOPA limit, and with several trips across the country to argue my case. 

Bennett,

What kind of gyros did you have? I'm curious how a lightning strike could have caused the loss of gyros.

Thanks,

Steve

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. The electrical bus melted in several places, and the gyros lost power - both the electric HSI, and the BK AI - very little of the electrical system still worked. The AI does not work without power Turn your master switch off and watch the AI - at least mine requires power.
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I thought the KI-256 attitude gyro was air powered.  The KCS-55A HSI requires both air and electricity. The old vacuum system may have some merit when it comes to lightning strikes.  Side note, are there any accidents documented to be caused by lightning? I had a discussion about the hazards of thunderstorms. I thought it was the extreme turbulence, loss of control, and/or structural failure due to these factors. My friend thought the primary hazard was lightning.

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That lightning strike cost me over $25,000. The bus had to be replaced, the pitch servo was trashed, the HSI was overhauled, and one radio was ruined As I recall the AI was also replaced with a rebuilt unit. Turning on my electric back- up vacuum pump did not bring the AI back. For all I know , the lighting strike could have melted the vacuum tube to the AI. The ASI and altimeter did work. And, thankfully, the gear also worked. There was no fire, but some mild smoke, and the flash was so strong I could hardly see fur a few minutes- like looking a super powerful flash bulbs. Nothing I would ever want to do again. The air was smooth when the lightning hit. I've had St Elmo's fire in flight, and this was nothing like that. Now I have far more backups, including the Dynon D-1 which is self contained

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So Mike, some questions on this trip. First -- why aren't you a proud owner of an Ice Box? Sure looked like you could have used one: devyvazu.jpg Second -- on your trip out your Clarity looked like this: y5e2ymag.jpg On the way back, it looked like this: zena6e7u.jpg Why does it look different? Third -- what make is this camera that you have mounted on your compass strut? ze5avasa.jpg Finally -- are you a reincarnated B17 crew member? ;)y9ybyjy2.jpg Looked like a great trip and loved your videos.

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Because that Clarity needs a solar powered fan (and another thing to fool with, plus it cost 70$) to avoid overheating on the glareshield, the switch to white wasnt enough. FWIW, My GDL-39 has never overheated and shut down.  I did wrap it in white sailcloth, but I am not sure it needs it.

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Because that Clarity needs a solar powered fan (and another thing to fool with, plus it cost 70$) to avoid overheating on the glareshield, the switch to white wasnt enough. FWIW, My GDL-39 has never overheated and shut down. I did wrap it in white sailcloth, but I am not sure it needs it.
I figured it was some sort of shade for the unit, didn't know it had a fan as well.
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That lightning strike cost me over $25,000. The bus had to be replaced, the pitch servo was trashed, the HSI was overhauled, and one radio was ruined As I recall the AI was also replaced with a rebuilt unit. Turning on my electric back- up vacuum pump did not bring the AI back. For all I know , the lighting strike could have melted the vacuum tube to the AI. The ASI and altimeter did work. And, thankfully, the gear also worked. There was no fire, but some mild smoke, and the flash was so strong I could hardly see fur a few minutes- like looking a super powerful flash bulbs. Nothing I would ever want to do again. The air was smooth when the lightning hit. I've had St Elmo's fire in flight, and this was nothing like that. Now I have far more backups, including the Dynon D-1 which is self contained

 

What a thing to happen.  I bet your Dynon D-1 would have also been fried if it had been plugged and charging by a lighter charger unit as that would be a path for the electrical system to send a charge into the unit.  Do you keep your Dynon not charging and charge it only on the ground in the hangar?

 

I have a KI256 and a backup electric AI....never even occured to me about lightning...  Eesh.  And the FAA on your case for a loss of altitude as well.  Insult to injure - I will remember to declare an emergency liberally if anything ever happens.

 

I wonder if a person could try to get their insurance to pay for the repair of a lightning strike.  After all, my understanding of my policy is that if lightning hits my airplane while it is parked at tie down or in my hangar, then I am covered.  And if I were to have an incident that was my fault such as a bad landing, then it is my fault.  So it seems like maybe insurance might cover an act of nature like that.  Anyone know?

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Mike, this is a wonderful picture illustration - a great service to us all - something I wish I had seen several years ago when I first started IFR.  The gap in the education between instrument flying - which is all textbook stuff about charts, bearings, needles, and so forth, and the real life story of making weather decisions based on data at your hand - its a wide gap.  Your illustrations are exactly what is missing.  Comparing the data - radar images and stormscope images to WHAT YOU SEE OUT THE WINDOW.

 

Also, somehow it was not emphasized enough during my initial IFR training that I should be constantly negotiating and renegotiating my flight plan on the roll as the scenarios unfold.  That I am not bothering ATC and that is what they are therefore - to help us have a safe, and maybe even comfortable, outcome.

 

You should publish these pictures and story somewhere besides this forum.  Maybe our monthly mooney magazine?  :-)

 

If someone would make a similar picture story for ice avoidance?

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If someone would make a similar picture story for ice avoidance?

Speaking of, what is on your wing Mike? Is it a shadow? When I first looked at it, I thought it was a reflection of the cloud he is about to enter. But then I noticed the black tape on his leading edge wasn't black any longer...

myhuqyzu.jpg

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Nice write up Mike.  Just be careful out there.  So long as you can see there shouldn't be any issues but please never trust anything but your eyes or onboard radar!

 

Here's a pic of one that grew to over 47000 ft in less than 30 minutes.  I was at FL450 and XM wx was showing the tops at 29000.  WRONG

 

 

post-7889-0-50190700-1378591901_thumb.jp

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Nice write up Mike.  Just be careful out there.  So long as you can see there shouldn't be any issues but please never trust anything but your eyes or onboard radar!

 

Here's a pic of one that grew to over 47000 ft in less than 30 minutes.  I was at FL450 and XM wx was showing the tops at 29000.  WRONG

I will second this. The problem with XM or ADS-B weather is the refresh rate. By the time the info actually works its way through the system and onto your display it can be quite stale. When things are popping the info may simply not be good enough.  At best, it's better than nothing. At worst, it's more dangerous than having nothing at all. With the existing refresh rates, they will never be able to replace airborne weather radar and a stormscope combination.

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