Thursday, March 1, 2007
Severe Weather Flying
Dennis Newton’s book reviewed
Severe weather. Who would ever think about flying in it, or around it? Yet a book about severe weather flying has been highly popular and successful for over 20 years, and is now in its third edition.
For although we’d all like to say that we would never fly in the worst of conditions, the term “severe” itself is subjective, and the ability to navigate around it depends in part on the equipment on board the aircraft and the experience of the pilot. In the real world there are often cases where we must choose whether and where to fly when conditions might become severe, or when severe conditions are nearby but safe passage may still be made with knowledge of how adverse conditions form, evolve and move.
In the preface to the third edition of Severe Weather Flying (Aviation Supplies & Academics, Inc., 2002), author Dennis Newton lays the groundwork for the book. “As any prudent person would probably guess,” he writes, “it is mostly a book about how not to fly in severe weather.” Newton’s goal is to provide readers with the knowledge needed to anticipate and avoid severe weather. A degreed meteorologist as well as a weather research pilot and flight instructor, Newton goes to great lengths to “characterize weather elements…which are so complex that they defy characterization, without resorting to mathematics or without so many except for’s and whereas’s that the thing degenerates into technical obscurities.” His focus is to “worry less about true in tedious detail” and to hone in on what is “useful.” As he puts it, Severe Weather Flying is “primarily a book written for pilots by a pilot.”
Earlier editions of Newton’s work, in continuous print since 1983, could not cover the dramatic changes in weather information gathering, forecasting and dissemination that have come about with the advent of the Internet. A number of landmark aircraft accidents involving icing, turbulence and thunderstorms have promoted changes in pilot education and scientific research regarding weather avoidance. In-cockpit technologies bring increasing weather sophistication to the cockpit. The most significant change in the third edition, however, is that earlier editions focused primarily on the Visual Flight Rules (VFR) pilot and the less-experienced Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) aviator. Newton comments that “there is still a good bit of that [material] here. However, [a] change that has come about in the 1990s is the rapid increase in the rate at which pilots have advanced from piston engine equipment into turboprops and often into jets.” The author has “therefore tried to balance the book…so that it will be of benefit to pilots flying this more advanced equipment.” The result is a very readable and eminently informative pilot’s guide to the worst of flying weather.
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