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4 Answers

Thunderstorm avoidance

Asked by: 3062 views
Commercial Pilot, Instrument Rating, Private Pilot, Student Pilot, Weather

We avoid thundersorms by 20 nm horizontally but if I want to avoid it by flying over it (assuming performance permits) by how many feet I should fly above it. please provide a ref if available.

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4 Answers



  1. Heather McNevin on Jan 05, 2015

    I don’t see many pilots try to top a developed storm, the great majority deviate laterally around it. If your heart is set on over the top, I believe the rule of thumb is 1,000 feet vertically over the top of the storm for each 10 knots of wind at that altitude. Storms can develop rapidly and the “safe” altitude will likely exceed aircraft capabilities.
    http://www.aviationweather.ws/065_Do%27s_and_Don%27ts_of_Thunderstorm_Flying.php
    http://www.aviationsafetymagazine.com/airplane/Flying-In-Thunderstorms.html
    http://www.nwas.org/committees/avnwxcourse/teachl2.htm

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  2. Dan S. on Jan 05, 2015

    I’ve never seen any reference that states recommended clearance above a TS. That said, I would take into account multiple factors in my determination of safe clearance, or whether I would even attempt to fly over the storm. I assume you fly jets, if you are to ever consider flying over a TS. Because of the speeds at which jets fly, it would almost always make more sense to avoid risk and deviate left or right of course. When you are traveling at 500mph+ flying off course by 50 miles will really not have much effect on your flight time, assuming it’s not a solid line of storms which would make circumnavigating unreasonable. A few factors I would consider is, the strength of the storm, width of the storm, how far above you are able to clear the storm, and would you be able to escape and avoid drifting down into the storm in the event of an engine failure (or decompression, electrical fire, or any other event which would require immediate descent). If it’s a 350 tops TS and you are in a Citation, I don’t see much problem flying over it at FL430. Crossing a 420 tops TS at FL430, probably not too smart!

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  3. Dan S. on Jan 05, 2015

    I’ve never seen any reference that states recommended clearance above a TS. That said, I would take into account multiple factors in my determination of safe clearance, or whether I would even attempt to fly over the storm. I assume you fly jets, if you are to ever consider flying over a TS. Because of the speeds at which jets fly, it would almost always make more sense to avoid risk and deviate left or right of course. When you are traveling at 500mph+ flying off course by 50 miles will really not have much effect on your flight time, assuming it’s not a solid line of storms which would make circumnavigating unreasonable. A few factors I would consider is, the strength of the storm, width of the storm, how far above you are able to clear the storm, and would you be able to escape and avoid drifting down into the storm in the event of an engine failure (or decompression, electrical fire, or any other event which would require immediate descent). If it’s a 350 tops TS and you are in a Citation, I don’t see much problem flying over it at FL430. Crossing a 420 tops TS at FL430, probably not too smart!

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  4. Wes Beard on Jan 05, 2015

    The answer deals with the wind speed above the thunderstorm. For each 10 knots of wind you should be 1000 higher than the top of the thunderstorm. Take a look in an old copy of the Aviation Weather handbook. (AC00-6A) pg. 122.

    Most thunderstorms top off on the high 30s or 40s and some top off above FL600. Quite a few corporate jets can get to the 40s but none can top a super high thunderstorm. The best advice I to avoid them both horizontally and vertically by a wide margin.

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