Strategies for avoiding turbulence

Nobody likes to fly through or experience turbulence in the air. Hence, a recent and lengthy post by John Ewing about strategies for avoiding turbulence is well worth reading. John began by noting the importance of first getting yourself thoroughly briefed about weather conditions before taking off and the fact that there are a number of sources of information about the potential for turbulence while flying.

John then went into considerable detail about each of the following tips for when the ride starts to get bumpy:

  • Ensure your seat belt is snug and tight (before the turbulence starts).
  • Secure loose items in the cockpit.
  • Slow down to at least the published maneuvering speed (Va) for your aircraft at your estimated weight.
  • When you use the controls, think of dampening out the variations instead of trying to overcome them.
  • Avoid using flaps in turbulence.
  • Be patient and try to stay as relaxed as possible.

John also noted that you will be doing your fellow pilots a favor by reporting instances of turbulence but he also pointed out that less experienced pilots who are flying smaller aircraft will frequently over-report the intensity of turbulence plus pilots in more rigid, composite airframe aircraft (such as Diamond and Cirrus) will tend to report a rougher ride that their aluminum-flying compatriots. Hence, John suggested that pilots can avoid over-reporting turbulence by using the objective criteria from the Aeronautical Information Manual, section 7-1-23.

At the end of his post, John concluded by saying:

Turbulence can become a serious risk factor; it is distracting, it adds to your workload, and it’s tiring. Combine turbulence with instrument meteorological conditions and/or night time and the risks for single-pilot operations only get worse. If you find turbulence scary and uncomfortable, join the club! There’s no shame in being afraid, but there’s seldom any excuse for not anticipating or expecting turbulence.

In other words, turbulence can often be managed but there is no shame in delaying or even cancelling a flight in order to avoid it. Not only will you be taking the safest option but your passengers will probably thank you for doing so!

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