Flying Through Convective Sigmets


Its been hot and humid all week in the Southeast US. Convective Sigmets have been up every day. So, do you just pickle your typical piston single or twin in the summer months, or come up with a plan be able to fly and still avoid the thunderstorms?

I ran into some Navy pilots at the airport FBO last week here in Central Florida. They were in the pilot lounge waiting for a Convective Sigmet to expire in order to fly back to base (in the aircraft above) in the Florida Panhandle. The weather looked doable, so I asked why they were not flying. Apparently the Navy Training Command prohibits training flights from departing into area of known Convective Sigmets, so they were grounded until the weather improved.

For me, a Sigmet with associated thunderstorms means you might be able to go, but then again, maybe not. It depends if the storms are associated with a line or squall, or are of the pop-up variety. You also must fly early in the day and must stay in  visual flight conditions, even if you and the plane are IFR capable, including a Stormscope, NEXRAD radar and even onboard RADAR.

Even if you manage to remain clear of the rain and lightning using RADAR and spherics, being inside the clouds at 8-12,000 feet is not fun. It’s wet, bumpy and most certainly an unpleasant experience for any passengers. Stay under the clouds in order to visually avoid the rain shafts and lightening, assuming there is at least a 2,000 foot ceiling or better, along your route.

Today I encountered some pop-up cells in north Florida. Below is a picture of the EX500 with XM satellite weather, and some pictures from the cockpit looking at the same cells.

Remaining below the bases, I was able to stay in visual conditions and scoot between the cells. The Stormscope was clear and all I encountered was some light rain on my way home.

Right click for larger images:

 

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