Radar Questions & Answers


No. Some systems use a ground (or weight-on-wheel) switch that prohibits operation while on the ground. Although a well-intended feature, it can jeopardize the safety of both aircraft and the crew/passengers.

Yes, for three reasons. Let’s use another professional—a radiologist—as an example to make the point. This doctor has at his/her disposal different kinds of imaging technology. Why? Because no one technology can show everything they need to see to properly diagnose all conditions. Each machine is limited in what it can show. Secondly, it takes training and knowledge to interpret the image (it takes knowledge of what constitutes “normal” before “abnormal” will be detected). Lastly, doctors have to be confident in their knowledge and techniques during a crisis, understanding what works and what does not work in the given circumstances.

Pilots using radar are no different. They must have a clear understanding of their radar system's limitations, be proficient in interpreting the image it provides, and have developed confidence in their techniques. Waiting until the “dark and stormy night” to turn the radar on hoping it will keep you out of trouble without proficiency is a colossal mistake.

Yes, it sure does. But what is the alternative? (See proficiency answer above.) Operating the radar on clear-weather days until a sufficient level of proficiency is achieved is a wise investment of resources. When that level of proficiency has been reached, and only then, should you consider not operating the radar on clear-weather days.

You shouldn’t have to, but first of all, well done. You’re still alive to ask the question (there are a lot of people whose fates would have been different had their pilots made an equally conservative decision). Professional pilots—many of them operating multi-million dollar aircraft—must be willing to accept conservative decisions when it comes to hazardous convective weather. This is not to say something shouldn’t be learned from the experience so it can be done better next time. And remember the adage: experience is something you get after you need it.

Physics and design limitations. First, the design limitations: most likely, your radar simply does not have sufficient down-tilt to place the top of the beam on “the range.” Usually, this manifests itself on aircraft with the smallest antennas because physics dictates that small antennas broadcast a very wide beam. Exacerbating this issue is beam-flaring; i.e. modern-day receivers tend to pick up excessive returns from outside the calibrated portion of the beam (outside the half-power point). Down-tilt limitation + small antenna (wide beam) + beam-flaring (wider beam) = inability to put the top of the beam on “the range” with some configurations.

That could only be the opinion of someone who is totally naïve and ignorant of the technology. NEXRAD is an outstanding system that complements airborne weather radar in the best ways. It is not, however, a panacea, nor does it replace airborne radar. NEXRAD possesses its own set of significant limitations. Pilots using this technology must do so with more knowledge and professional skill than the one who you heard make the implication.

Currently, most PWS systems are installed in air-carrier class aircraft; they constitute an extremely small client demographic. This is changing, though, as PWS is trickling down into corporate systems, so it may be appropriate in the future to once again include this in my program. Be aware, however, that the term “predictive” windshear is misleading, as PWS only detects what already exists — it doesn't predict anything. Furthermore, windshear events can be hazardous no matter which direction they originate from (e.g. from behind during takeoff roll), yet these systems only scan a very narrow sector ahead of the aircraft. This is not to say these systems are not a good thing. They are just limited in their capability to detect windshear and their capabilities may be overhyped by the marketing department of the radar manufacturers.

Different possibilities. If components were removed and replaced during the process, it may be that they were reinstalled incorrectly, or it may be that the radome was repaired (or painted) improperly. I’d start by looking at those possibilities and avoid areas of hazardous weather until the problem is resolved.

Very, very important. The radome is basically an electromagnetic window, thickness-tuned to the wavelength of the radar. It needs to meet the minimum class recommended by the radar manufacturer and be maintained to at least that standard.

No. Radome repairs must be accomplished by a reputable, knowledgeable repair facility. Contact us for recommendations.

No, not to a significant degree provided it has been purchased from a reputable company. It must also be installed and maintained in accordance with their instructions.




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