Friday, April 3, 2009

Mountain Flying, Explained

You may remember my previous criticism of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation for a bit of misinformation in its online course on Mountain Flying.

I am happy to report that the course has been overhauled and republished, with a much more accurate portrayal of mountain waves. We've gone from "Beware of these clouds" to correctly identifying lenticular clouds as marking smooth air that can be "good for gliders:"

Click image for larger version

OK, so the rotors are still turning the wrong way in this illustration, but that is minor compared with all the improvements over the previous version.

AOPA gets full credit for going to the trouble and expense of improving this online course. If only the FAA were as conscientious about the accuracy of their published materials.

By the way, AOPA has recently increased the amount of attention paid to the communities of pilots who don't fly airplanes. They have published excellent pieces on proficiency and cross-training, and have regular blog posts about soaring. We can thank SSA members Chris O'Callaghan, Val Paget, and Bill Daniels for this.

AOPA is a good organization. Join or renew now.


Moshe said...

I let my AOPA membership lapse when I sold the airplane, but wonder if I really should remain a member?

Janet said...

We (the NSO) have just returned from a week in Arkansas and from 33,000 feet I saw a bunch of Lennies near the mountains and was making an attempt to explain how wonderful they are to the trying-not-to-look-bored person sitting next to me.

Anonymous said...

The wave still doesnt go high enough in the picture.

Rick said...

Yeah, that's a good point. The diagram indicates that the upper level turbulence can be found at summit height. This is wrong, of course. The Kelvin-Helmholtz cloud (number 4 in the diagram) is seen rarely. The turbulence at the top of the wave is commonly known as "Clear Air Turbulence," and it is usually encountered far above the altitudes used by pilots who take this course.

In spite of this, it is still true that the AOPA's information is getting better.