FAAST Team Safety:
By Dr. Chuck Crinnian, MD
Anyone that has lived a summer here in the desert knows about the Monsoon season and its associated thunderstorms. I don't need to tell you to plan your flights for the morning and avoid the afternoon convective activity. However, convective activity can be present in the morning hours and no doubt you will be returning from an escape from the heat and find yourself approaching the Mogollon Rim late morning and see a line of buildups between you and Deer Valley. What are you gonna do?
Mother Nature has a way of defeating even the best of pre-flight planning. As you are en route, assess the development of convective activity by calling Flight Watch-122.0, or if equipped, Datalink Weather. But don't be fooled into thinking you can circumnavigate cells on your Nexrad display, this is for strategic planning only. As cells can develop and move between updates, this technology cannot be used for tactical avoidance.
If you plan on winding your way around widely scattered cells, do so by at least a 20 mile distance. That means that if you decide to punch between two cells, you need a 40 mile gap. But, if the cell has an anvil, don’t fly under it, hail damage will permanently alter your paint and windshield. It's best to fly on the upwind side when navigating around a cell.
Always have the concept of deviating to an alternate/intermediate airport. We don't have the option of flying over the weather like the airlines. I am sure your non-flying passengers will appreciate why you exercised your PIC skills and decided to avoid placing the aircraft in a weather phenomenon that can literally tear an airplane to tiny pieces. Remember the world’s best pilot, Scott Crossfield?
I encourage you to go to www.asf.org/thunderstorms and take the thunderstorms course - for Wings credit.