Pilot Journal
Thursday, March 1, 2007

Severe Weather Flying

Dennis Newton’s book reviewed

severe weather flyingSevere 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.
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The Icing Weather Briefing
As he did with thunderstorm flying, Newton provides guidance for a preflight weather briefing when icing is a threat. He recommends referencing:

  • AIRMETs, SIGMETs and PIREPs for ice—the only products that actually identify icing conditions, albeit subjectively.
  • Temperatures, both on the surface and aloft.
  • Moisture information—“dewpoint spreads of less than 2ºC with temperatures between +1 and -15ºC are suspect.”
  • Lifting action.
  • Stability.

In other words, Newton says, it’s “the Four Fundamentals again.” He asserts that the state of icing forecasts is “not very good.” It takes “judicious preflight planning” and knowing “what to do to stay out of [ice], or to get out of it” if encountered in flight. Newton completes his discussion on airframe ice with a chapter each on the operation of ice protection equipment and the process of certifying an aircraft for flight in icing conditions.

At 187 pages with copious black-and-white photographs and illustrations (a few reproduced in color in an Appendix) and a good index, a well-read and earmarked copy of Dennis Newton’s Severe Weather Flying third edition belongs on the bookshelf of any serious cross-country pilot.

It is sadly ironic that the forward to this book was written by test pilot legend Scott Crossfield, heralded for over a decade as “the fastest man alive” for his pioneering work with X-series aircraft including the X-15 rocket plane. Crossfield writes: “The degree of confidence to operating in areas where severe weather may occur and the confidence to now one’s limits is a measure of true proficiency.” The legendary test pilot perished when he flew his Cessna 210 into a Level Six thunderstorm over northern Georgia April 19, 2006 while attempting to navigate through an area of intense storms. Crossfield’s last flight teaches that even the best among us must constantly re-evaluate our severe-weather decision making. Crossfield’s experience and Dennis Newton’s Severe Weather Flying provide valuable lessons for all pilots.


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