December 2009 Issue

Wing Icing and Datalink Weather

Datalink weather takes much of the agita out of weather judgments. But having all that information can lead to the wrong decision, especially in icing.

Risk—and the management thereof—is a diffuse concept, for it remains true that one man’s risk is another’s Saturday afternoon recreation. But it’s also true that in order to place degrees of risk into categories remotely capable of being ranked requires as much information as it is possible to have. It applies to airplane systems, to stick and rudder skills and above all, to weather. Weather has always been the stickiest thorn in the FAA’s concept of "all available information." Even in the era of five-minute Nexrad loops and ever more sophisticated ice prediction products, there’s occasionally a large disconnect between what is expected to happen and what is really happening. The advent of real-time weather data in the cockpit has reduced the surprise factor, but it hasn’t eliminated it. And it cuts both ways—having lots of information that’s just wrong can be worse than having no information, and it can lure you into a decision you might not have otherwise made.

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