Lately it seems that we are losing about an aircraft a week due to thunderstorms and convective weather. Too often it seems, we read in the news about another Bonanza, or Pilatus, or Piper Lance that tangled with bad weather, and came out of the bottom of the clouds in pieces, taking precious cargo in the process.
In almost all cases, these are experienced IFR pilots, flying complex, well equipped aircraft, presumably with weather avoidance onboard. Why does this continue to happen?
Years ago, small planes, especially single engine aircraft, had virtually no weather avoidance equipment on board. The radar antennae that could be fitted on a single engine aircraft were too small to be of any real value. Satellite weather did not exist, and spherics were too expensive for most GA aircraft owners. In those days, if you could not stay visual during periods of convection, you stayed on the ground.
Maybe all this new technology is giving some pilots a false sense of security, and encouraging them to take more chances. Maybe they forgot about the latency factor with XM radio, or don’t know how to properly set the tilt on their radar unit.
This evening I went out to fly for a bit. I flicked on the XM weather and Stormscope, which lit up like a Christmas tree (above). Fortunately the weather was some miles distant and my flight was in cool, smooth air. I throughly enjoyed my evening flying over the Florida landscape, but I am haunted as to how experienced pilots continue to fly into adverse weather.
Even with all the new bells and whistles in our panels, the laws of physics have not been repealed if you fly into a thunderstorm.