Aviation In Canada

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Thunderstorms and Light Airplanes

I know it's a little out of season, but this story happened in my airspace one afternoon a few years ago, and I thought I'd share...

The flight plan was a PA-28 enroute from KBGR (Bangor, ME) to CYYT (St.John's, NF), presumably on a trans-Atlantic ferry flight, stopping there for fuel. We had a SIGMET regarding a line of thunderstorms stretching from YFC to YQY, tops at 45,000 according to radar. This is a pretty significant line, and it crosses the PA-28's intended track at about at 20 degree angle, with a width, according to the SIGMET, of about 30NM. Great set up, no?

Anyway, this airplane entered my area south of YQM at 5,000 feet, IFR and IMC. I offered him the SIGMET information and he told me the skies didn't look too bad ahead, so he continued on. A PA-31 Navajo with weather radar operating underneath him at 4,000 asked for deviations around some embedded buildups, so I knew it was near his area. I cautioned the pilot about it again, and he elected to continue, stating he was now in some rough air.

I looked for more information, but Canadian ATC's weather radar is a poor presentation at best. I had two Dash 8's out of Halifax, one heading to Moncton and one to Charlottetown, both tracks crossing the PA-28's intended track about 20 and 40 NM ahead respectively. I asked them to describe what they saw on radar to me so I could paint a mental picture and relate that to the PA-28. It was ugly. A dense line of thunderstorms as advertised on the SIGMET. In fact, upon further examination, both flight crews on the Dashes elected to return to Halifax rather than attempt to penetrate the area.

A Dash8 is one of the most rugged airplanes I'm familiar with. Both of these decided to turn tail and run. The Cherokee pilot, even with all of this information, decided to continue on. Sound like a bad plan? Tune in tomorrow for more on the story.

(I hate it when people do that to me, but it is kind of fun from a writer's point of view... Besides, this post would just be too long if continued today.)