Risk Management Magazine

Search for Articles

Weathering the Conditions

Weathering the Conditions

Aviation Directorate
U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center
Fort Rucker, Alabama

Aviators know winter weather conditions can deteriorate quickly and create a wide range of issues they must deal with such as poor visibility, turbulence and icing. But they have two tools to help them manage the challenges — flight planning and frequent weather briefings.

A successful flight in winter weather begins with an accurate weather briefing, which the crew must continually update during the course of the flight. As always, the pilot in command has the overall responsibility to evaluate all aspects of the flight to determine if it can be conducted safely. The PC must continually reevaluate en route weather to identify any adverse conditions. Passenger and crew safety must be the top priority.

It is important for the flight crew to always plan for a way out and not get boxed in by weather conditions during a flight. Weather briefings may quickly become outdated because conditions can shift rapidly, depending on atmospheric changes that are common during the winter months.

Once the flight is planned, the crew must determine if the aircraft is properly equipped for the anticipated flight conditions. The preflight inspection focuses close attention on deicing and anti-icing equipment that would play a crucial role if icing conditions are encountered. Then, it is smart to get a weather update before takeoff to ensure there have been no significant changes along the planned flight path.

If the pilot in command makes the decision to take off in instrument meteorological conditions during the winter months, close attention must be paid to the possibility of ice accumulation on the aircraft. The flight crew must continually monitor for ice buildup and take the necessary measures to ensure the situation does not impact the aircraft’s lift capability. If ice formation on aircraft flight control surfaces becomes excessive, increased power settings will be needed to counter the reduced lift capability. Depending on the rate of ice buildup, anti-icing and deicing systems may be sufficient to safely control the issue, but it is never a good idea to remain in icing conditions for extended periods of time.

No pilot wants to find their aircraft in a stall or spin condition. If the weather conditions are deteriorating to a point the flight crew is not comfortable, one option is requesting a change to an altitude that is out of IMC conditions, if possible. Asking for vectors to avoid bad weather is another option. As a last resort, the crew may want to land as soon as possible at the nearest suitable airport and remain there until weather conditions improve.

Pilots must maintain situational awareness during changing weather conditions. It is important that they continue to be proactive and not find themselves in an unsafe flight situation because of poor weather or command influence. Good flight planning and continually monitoring weather conditions are the best way to achieve mission success and to ensure the safety of the crew and passengers.

  • 1 January 2015
  • Author: Army Safety
  • Number of views: 10336
  • Comments: 0