There are days when storms, turbulence, squalls and porridge-like visibility revoke that privilege and we get to sit on the ground.
As aeroplanes have developed, so too have systems designed to measure the intensity of weather patterns.
These systems enable pilots to make informed decisions on whether or not it is safe to challenge the sky ahead.
Possibly the most valuable is the invention of the cockpit-mounted weather radar.
Weather radars provide pilots with graphic representations of what lies ahead of them in terms of size, intensity and movement.
The technology has advanced to the point where installing them in GA aircraft is possible and economical.
The advent of the multi-function display has given systems the ability to portray weather patterns in a clear and concise manner.
What weather radars cannot do is force a pilot around a storm cell; that decision still relies on good airmanship.
Bendix King’s ART 2000 and ART 2100 weather avoidance systems are designed to be coupled to the KMD 250 MFD.
Doing so means that you can also overlay your flight plan path, traffic and weather, depending upon what you optioned into the MFD.
The increase in situational awareness means you can plan the best route around the weather.
Four colours – green, yellow, red and magenta – are used to indicate the intensity of the storm ahead, green meaning weak activity and magenta meaning death in the clouds.
Together the colours build-up a digital picture of what’s off the nose, and the safest route becomes apparent.
The BK system also has a vertical profile mode showing how high the cell is and how quickly it is building.
This is handy for watching the leading edge angle of the storm so you can see if it is moving.
The GWX 68 can be coupled to any of Garmin’s panel-mount EFIS displays.
Weather intensity is given in the conventional four colours.
Homing in on the serious stuff is not hard with a scan angle that is variable from 20-90 deg, which is maintained even in turns.
The digital representation is stable through pitch and roll.
Both vertical and horizontal profiles can be selected with a 60 deg scan angle in the vertical.
Garmin have opted for a Herculean 6500 watt transmitter, which is one of the largest available in weather radars of this class.
All this extra oomph means sharper weather resolution and the ability to ‘paint’ smaller droplets and better penetrate larger droplets.
Pilots with systems hooked into a G1000 flight deck will be able to take advantage of the Weather Attenuated Colour Highlight (WATCH) feature, which identifies particularly violent parts of a storm, or those areas where the intensity cannot be determined.
Not strictly a weather radar, Insight’s StrikeFinder maps lightning within the scan range, which can be used to track active storms.
It is designed to fit in 75mm instrument holes, so is unlikely to cause much disruption to your panel.
The StrikeFinder searches for the electromagnetic energy that is emitted from a lightning strike.
Detected strikes are displayed on the LED relative to the aircraft.
The scan range of up to 200nm works through 360 deg.
Another handy feature is the one-hour playback.
This will replay detected emissions in compressed time so you can see how the storm has moved and give you a chance to predict where it might be going.
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Garmin has received the European Aviation Safety Agency's validation of the US Supplemental Type Certificate for its GTN 650 and GTN 750 series of touchscreen avionics.