March 2010 Issue

Reading Radar Right

Just like landing, itís a skill to be learned and practiced. Knowing how radar ďseesĒ rain and how to overcome its limitations can help.

One of the most misunderstood pieces of equipment in the modern cockpit is airborne weather radar. For most of us, itís a luxury we canít afford: either sferic devices (Stormscope/Strikefinder) and/or datalinked Nexrad images serve as a pilotís third-best tool for avoiding thunderstorms. We say "third-best" because the best thing ever used for this purpose remains the Mk. I, Mod. I human eyeball. The trick, of course, is the eyeball only can be used in visual conditions. By happy coincidence, thatís the best place to be when contemplating flight in an area of thunderstorms. But visual circumnavigation of convective activity isnít always possible. Insteadóand if youíve got the room in the nose or a wing-mounted radomeóan airborne radar installation remains your second-best solution. Yes, Nexrad is widely available and much less expensive, but it doesnít do the same job as the airborne equipment.

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