Storm season is upon us! The technology of radar is a great tool to avoid severe weather, but it is important to remember its limitations. Radar registers only "wet" objects such as rain, wet hail and wet snow. This excludes "dry" hail, ice crystals and dry snow, all of which are most common at high altitudes. Over the seasons, Duncan Aviation technicians have repaired several aircraft which were flown into damaging "dry" precipitation that was invisible to properly functioning radar systems and alert pilots.
To minimize this possibility, it is imperative that flight crews train, practice and master the use of their radar's manual tilt function. Some pilots rely on the auto-tilt feature to track cells, but this feature is designed to compensate for aircraft altitude changes only. Instead, the flight crew should manually adjust tilt as the aircraft moves in relation to the storm cell and focus on the most reflective precipitation which is found in the bottom 2/3 of storm cells. Proper tilt management allows radar to see precipitation at lower altitudes and alert the crew to the potential of damaging precipitation at higher altitudes. According to multiple manufacturers' technical reps, poor tilt management is a leading cause of radar performance complaints.
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