Jason Schappert has posted the the next video in MzeroA’s Understanding Weather Series and this latest video focuses on thunderstorms and thunderstorm avoidance. In the video, Jason covers the two types of thunderstorms (air mass and steady state), the three ingredients it takes to make one (sufficient water vapor, unstable lapse rate or change in temperature rate and uplifting action), the three stages of thunderstorms (cumulus, mature and dissipating stages) and tips for avoidance (stay 20 miles away, avoid flying under the anvil of the storm and avoid attempting to fly over one as the top of a storm can be as much as 60,000 feet in altitude – in other words, much higher than you can fly in a normal aircraft!). The short video is well worth watching – especially by pilots in areas that experience frequent summer thunderstorms.
Pilots need to have a good grasp and understanding of basic weather conditions that they may encounter in the air. Hence, Jason Schappert, the blogger behind the MzeroA.com blog, has begun a new “understanding weather” video series where he will be going over various weather conditions and how they impact pilots. Jason’s first video covers weather fronts and he begins by explaining what an air mass is and what a front is and then he explains the four most common types of fronts. The video is less than five minutes long and well worth watching as a reminder of what pilots face while flying.
I just stumbled upon Aviation Weather Today – a free and useful online webcast geared for pilots and business aviation (However, the webcast does not want to embed onto our site at the moment!). Its produced by Universal Weather & Aviation’s meteorology department to alert business aviation professionals to weather conditions that might impact air travel in various high-traffic regions around the world and there are individual segments covering Europe, North America, North Atlantic, North Pacific, South Pacific, South America, West Pacific, United Kingdom and the USA (just click on the video and scroll through the different regions). Its definitely useful to watch if you plan to take your own plane up for a spin or if you are planning to fly on a commercial aircraft for a trip somewhere and you are curious as to what weather conditions the pilots will have to deal with.
The best way for a pilot to avoid a thunderstorm is to simply not fly when there is a good chance of one occurring. However, when the weather report inevitably reads scattered thunderstorms or a chance of thunderstorms throughout the summer season in many locations, not flying is not really be a practical option. And yet, thunderstorms can be pretty serious business should you be caught up in one during a flight.
Hence, Patrick Flannigan has made an excellent blog post about thunderstorm avoidance on AviationChatter.com. In it, he explains the tell tale signs of a thunderstorm approaching and what parts of one to completely avoid. Patrick also explains that staying down low and avoiding the rain shafts, a preferred method of VFR pilots, has its drawbacks. In fact, he suggests a better way might be to get on top of the weather and weave your way through the buildups.
At the end of the post though, Patrick clearly states that there is no shame in choosing not to fly or in landing to wait out the storm as that might be the safest and smartest course of action. The blog post is well worth reading – especially with the summer flying season upon us.
I fly Cirrus SR-22s out of Denham Aerodrome in Northwest London. Vincent has asked me to write an article for Plastic Pilot about the eccentricities of flying in the UK.
I wrote an article for COPA’s Cirrus Pilot about flying in Europe a while ago and I opened with the good news: the laws of aerodynamics are the same on this side of the channel. However, many other things are different. This article is only an overview. I recommend plenty of ground school and a flight with an instructor.
- Weather information. The Met Office has a free basic weather briefing service for GA but you have to register for it.
- Airfield information and NOTAMs. You can download free approach plates, airfield information and NOTAMs from the NATS website. Again registration is required. Most pilots use an airfield guide like Pooley’s. You can also use my site, GolfHotelWhiskey.com, to look up airport reviews and find interesting places to visit.
- Charts. The CAA publishes very good GA charts in 1:250,000 and 1:500,000 format. They are available from aviation shops and most airports and FBOs. Many foreign pilots prefer to use Jeppesen charts which are consistent wherever they fly and these are valid too.
- Busy areas. The area around London – especially Luton, Stanstead, London City, Heathrow, Farnborough and Gatwick airports – and also around Manchester are very busy with narrowly defined VFR corridors and class A airspace at low level (sometimes down to 1,500 feet). These areas need careful study before you fly into them to ensure you don’t bust controlled airspace. See Fly On Track’s tips for avoiding infringements and their excellent guides to busy areas.
- Restrictions. Call 0500-354802 (+44 208 899 2401 from abroad) to get a daily briefing on temporary restrictions (e.g. royal flights, Red Arrows displays etc.)
- Flight plans. My preference is to file flight plans online via Homebriefing but many pilots will file them at their departure airport. You need to give at least an hour’s notice. Flight plans are optional for most flights within the UK.
- Radio. ATC in the UK is usually efficient and professional, especially when dealing with larger airports and military radar services. You can download a free copy of the official guide to R/T from the CAA (PDF). Appendix one contains a list of differences from ICAO standards. I have often heard foreign pilots (including American airline pilots) struggle with routings to unfamiliar places so it pays to study the map before you leave and familiarise yourself with the main navigation waypoints and their names.
- IMC outside controlled airspace. The UK issues IMC ratings which allow PPLs to fly in IMC outside Class A airspace and fly instrument approaches. It’s a bit like a simplified instrument rating. This leads to a peculiarity whereby pilots will fly in IMC without filing an IFR flight plan. I don’t know how this affects foreign pilots with instrument ratings but I guess they could do the same.
- ATC services outside controlled airspace. The rules and services changed very recently. The Flight Safety Initiative has a video that explains the new rules.
- LARS. The Lower Airspace Radar Service covers most of the UK. It is provided by a mix of civilian and military ATC units. It can provide a Deconfliction or Traffic service which is especially useful for flying in IMC. The controllers can choose whether or not to provide the service depending on how busy they are and some sectors become congested, especially on weekends. However, it is a very useful service and popular with UK-based pilots.
- London Information / Scottish Information. On your UK map you’ll find frequencies for London or Scottish Information. These services provide a basic service but they can be very useful. For example, UK-based pilots will often use them to join airways outside controlled airspace (they’re in the same room as en-route controllers) or for VFR cross-channel flights. I have always found the service to be immensely helpful and professional. Of course, the emergency frequency 121.5 is also available and provides a wonderful service for people with problems or people who get lost.
- Overhead joins. This form of VFR arrival can cause confusion, even to British-trained pilots. Full details are in the AIP but the principle is that, if instructed to fly an overhead join, you (a) Overfly the aerodrome at 2000 ft aal; (b) descend on the ‘dead side’ to circuit height; (c) join the circuit by crossing the upwind end of the runway at circuit height; (d) position downwind. I always find drawing a diagram helps to work out where the deadside of the airport is and how I’m going to fly the approach. You can usually ask for something simpler like a straight-in or base leg join if that is going to be safer. In general, however, aircraft in the UK do not practice the mid-downwind join favoured by US pilots and so asking for a downwind join is much less common.
- Joining Airways. Many small airfields in the UK have special arrangements for flights departing into the airways system. It’s worth talking to air traffic to find out what the recommended procedure is. If there is no procedure, the best way to get an airways join is usually to call London Information or a LARS service while remaining clear of controlled airspace. They can open your flight plan and get you into the airways system. In many parts of the UK, class A airspace descends down to 2,500 or even 1,500 feet and it’s important not to fly into controlled airspace until you have an explicit clearance to do so.
In my experience, pilots everywhere in the UK are delighted to welcome visitors from overseas and happy to offer advice and make allowances for language difficulties. So, come on over. I’ll buy you a drink!
Nearest town: Exeter (11m by car), Devon
- Winter – Mon 0001-0100, 0700-2359; Tue-Fri 0001-0200, 0700-2359. (PPR before 0800 and after 2000) Sat 0001-0200, 0800-1700; Sun 0830-2359. (PPR before 0900 and after 1700)
- Summer – Mon 0600-2359; Tue-Fri 0001-0100, 0600-2359; Sat 0001-0100, 0530-2000. (PPR before 0700 and after 1900) Sun 0700-2359. (PPR before 0800 and after 1900)
Longest Runway: 2083m, Asphalt
Fuel: AVTUR JET A-1, AVGAS 100LL
Phone: 01392 367 433
Landing fees: £7.50 per 500kg up to 3000 kg
- Handling: Exeter Airport Executive (01392 354 995, 07740 582 184, [email protected])
- Taxi: Exeter Airport Taxis (01395 234 100, www.exeterairporttaxis.co.uk), Corporate Cars (01392 36 2000, www.corporate-cars.com)
- Car hire: Avis (01392 360 214, www.avis.co.uk), Europcar (01392 363 520, www.europcar.co.uk), Hertz (01392 363 666, www.hertz.co.uk), Practical Motor Home (01392 254 037, www.practicalmotorhomerental.com)
- Facilities at airport: Food Village, Cafe Select, Bar, newsagent, travel agent, cashpoint, airport shopping and bureau de change
- Charter: Capital Aviation (www.capitalaviation.co.uk), Helicopters UK (www.flyhuk.com)
- Flying schools: Aviation Southwest (www.egte.com), Exeter Flying Club (www.flying-club.com), Flightpass (www.flightpass.co.uk)
- Double Locks by the canal outside the city (01392 256947)
- The Bridge Inn in Topsham (01392 873862, www.cheffers.co.uk/bridge.html)
- The Lighter Inn in Topsham by the Quay (01392 875439)
- Michael Caine’s, www.michaelcaines.com. Michelin-starred restaurant on Cathedral Green. 01392 310031
- Gidleigh Park, www.gidleigh.com. Two stars. Impeccable service. Beautiful location on Dartmoor. 01647 432367
- The New Angel in Dartmouth, www.thenewangel.co.uk. John Burton Race’s TV-star restaurant on the quay. About an hour’s drive but worth it. 01803 839425
- Hotel Barcelona (01392 281000, www.aliashotels.com). Stylish modern hotel in converted Victorian eye hospital.
- Royal Clarence Hotel (01392 319955, www.royalclarencehotel.co.uk). 53 room hotel on Cathedral Green.
- MacDonald Southgate Hotel (0870 400 8333, www.southgate-hotel.co.uk) Modern hotel in a lovely part of town.
- Gidleigh Park (01647 432367, www.gidleigh.com). One of the best hotels in England but 25m from the airport.
- Exeter Golf and Country Club (01392 876303, www.exetergcc.co.uk)
- Teign Valley Golf Club (01647 253026, www.teignvalleygolf.co.uk)
- Woodbury Park Hotel and Country Club (01395 233382, www.woodburypark.co.uk)
- Bovey Castle (01647 445016, www.boveycastle.com). Beautiful, once-private course in the heart of Dartmoor. About an hour’s drive.
- Hunter Flying Club has six classic warbirds. Visitors are welcome to look at the aircraft. (0117 967 3858, www.classicjets.co.uk)
- Met Office weather training courses.
- Canoeing and fishing on the river Exe at Exeter
- Further afield: Dartmoor National Park (www.dartmoor-npa.gov.uk), Dartington Hall (www.dartingtonhall.com) and sunny Torquay.
- Exeter City Council (www.exeter.gov.uk/visiting)
- Devon County Council (www.discoverdevon.com)
- Exeter and Essential Devon Partnership (www.exeterandessentialdevon.com)
- Exeter Bill Bryson said “Exeter is not an easy town to love” in his Notes from a Small Island. Having lived there myself for six years when I was at school, I have to differ. Exeter is a lovely town. Once known as the redbrick Bath, because of its elegant Georgian circuses and parades, it is a good mix of city sophistication and provincial charm. Much of the old city was destroyed by bombing in 1942, although small pockets remain and, fortunately, the Norman Cathedral and the old buildings around it, including Francis Drake’s favourite pub, were unharmed.
- The New Angel The New Angel is buzzy and has a relatively unadorned dining room without any tablecloths, or carpet. Half one wall is replaced by a bar top, which leads across into the kitchen so that all the delicious looking dishes appearing one after another are on full view to the hungry multitude. John Burton Race sent me away delighted I had taken the trouble to fly from Denham. He had passed his unwitting exam with flying colours. As far as we were concerned he richly deserved his Michelin star.