How best can i model the relationship between Aviation and Weather for my Dissertation?

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  • 5 years ago
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    I have sailed small sailboats for half a century and, for the past 13 years, own and fly a light aircraft. I also teach meteorology to aviators at my club.

    My experience is this: At sea, you take the weather that comes. In the air, you can fly away from the bad weather. However, we must distinct between different forms of aviation:

    1) VFR flying. This is, visual reference flying, you need to have 5 km sight, be 1,000 ft away from any cloud. If there are holes in the cloud cover, you can fly "on-top" i.e. above the clouds. Otherwise, your are limited by the cloud ceiling. Usually you will need 2,000 ft AMSL ceiling. Rain and snow reduces very much sight forward. Usually, if you can't see the horizon distinctly, you should not keep that heading.

    2) IFR flying. Instrument flying requires both pilot and aircraft IFR license. For the aircraft, it means, double set of instruments and artificial horizon. Flying like this, you can fly in the clouds, limited to the so-called zero isotherm. This is the altitude at which the temperature falls below freezing point. If you fly higher, the droplets of the under-cooled will instantly freeze on your wings and propeller. I have a friend who took-off a winter in freezing light fog and ... he crashed after two minutes.

    3) IFR flight with de-freezing devices. Those are electrical wires in the leading edge of the wings, that warm them up. This is required for all commercial flights. Those can fly in any kind of weather, so to speak.

    But, some weather conditions can still be dangerous to any kind of aviation. Those are warned by what we call, a SIGMET message. The TAF weather forecast for aviation is given every three hours but, sometimes, a SIGMET is given between them when: A sudden change happens like, unexpected hail storm, shear wind, micro-burst, etc.

    Commercial aircraft have a radar in the nose. It is not to see other aircraft since separation is done by ATC on the ground and they are separated by altitude, not route. The radar is to see dense cumulonimbus with thunderstorm. Not that it is very dangerous for the aircraft but, uncomfortable for the passengers. The pilot has then two solutions: either circumnavigate the center of the storm or, climb over it. It is then requested to the ATC and only performed when cleared by them.

    A few things are not easy to predict in aviation. Clear Air Turbulence (CAT) and micro-bursts are a couple of them. Often one aircraft suffering it will pass the message to ATC that will inform other aircraft on the same route.

    But it is not always evident. For example, a micro-burst may be experienced in the final approach to an airport. If reported, the tower may decide to close the airport for a while. Other pilots are then put on hold before landing. This is not popular and some pilots avoid reporting such situations not to get the critic of other pilots.

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