Flight Training - November 2014 - 4

RIGHT SEAT

By Ian J. Twombly
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A HELPING HAND

DATALINK WEATHER CAN BE AN ENABLER

A

s I write this, the Apple Watch has just launched, spawning
what will no doubt be a generation of kids, hipsters, and
yuppies who think digging in your pocket for your phone or
carrying a wallet is far too inconvenient. Many more of us

will hold out, but probably cave in and buy
one as well.
If I sound cynical, it's because I am. The
paradox of technology has been studied at length, mainly from an economic
standpoint. Despite rapid advancements
in capabilities, productivity continues to
increase only at a marginal rate. The office
of the future is still just that.
Aviation has its own technology
paradox, although it's one of a different
sort. Aside from GPS, datalink weather
has provided the greatest leap forward
in light airplane situational awareness in
the past 50 years, if not ever. That's due as

I should mention. I watched for a few
hundred miles as a line of strong rain
turned into a powerful bow echo. It was
clear we were going to lose the race home,
so plan B became to follow it. As weather
built behind the initial line, however, that
plan became more complicated.
We lucked out with a superb air traffic
controller who gave us guidance on areas
of lighter rain that I confirmed seeing on
the datalink. We punched through maybe
five miles of moderate precipitation to
beautiful clear skies on the other side. I
thought nothing of it until a JetBlue pilot
10 minutes behind me tried the same route

NEVER HAVE I TAKEN A FLIGHT WITH
DATALINK WISHING I HADN'T.
much to its ubiquitous nature as to what
it does. Airborne weather radar has
been around much longer, but it's expensive and requires training and experience
to use properly. (For more on datalink
and its benefits, see Alyssa J. Miller's
story, "Practical Weather," beginning
on page 38.)
With the incredible advancement
comes a fundamental question, maybe
even a paradox. Does using datalink
weather enable us to make flights or does
it cause us to take chances we wouldn't
otherwise take?
Like any pilot who considers himself
prudent, my personal answer is no. I primarily use it as an aid to show large areas
of weather to avoid. But if I'm honest with
myself, there have been a few times I've
used it to pinpoint routes of safe passage.
Case in point: A few months ago AOPA
photographer Chris Rose and I were
flying from Georgia to Maryland in a
Beechcraft Bonanza. The boss's airplane,

4/

FLIGHTTRAINING.AOPA.ORG

and turned around. He spent the next 15
minutes flying in circles talking to his dispatch and looking for an alternate route.
Even with the benefit of hindsight I'm
not sure I'd change my actions. Datalink
information is several minutes old, and
it's certainly not as accurate as onboard
weather radar. But that doesn't make
using it to its full potential inherently
dangerous. Getting to know its quirks
and tricks helps immensely, and reveals
the traps that can turn a leap forward in
situational awareness into an unwanted
enabler. Never have I taken a flight with
datalink wishing I hadn't. I can't say the
same for those I took without it.
The answer to the paradox is clear. It's
not that the technology doesn't live up to
its promises or its capabilities. It's that we
don't live up to ours.
Email Editor Ian J. Twombly at ian.twombly@aopa.
org; Twitter: ijtwombly; and visit Flight Training on
Facebook.

Publisher | Mark Baker

Senior VP, Media/Editor in Chief | Thomas B. Haines
Editor | Ian J. Twombly
Editor at Large | Thomas A. Horne
Managing Editor | Julie Summers Walker
Technical Editors | Mike Collins, Jill W. Tallman
Senior Editors | Dave Hirschman, Alton K. Marsh
Media Production Specialist | Sylvia Horne
Executive Assistant | Miriam E. Stoner
Contributors | Pete Bedell, Greg Brown, LeRoy Cook,
Budd Davisson, Rod Machado, Dan Namowitz, Wayne
Phillips, Bob Schmelzer, Jack Williams

Design Director | Michael E. Kline
Art Directors | Elizabeth Z. Jones, Jill C. Benton
Senior Photographer | Mike Fizer
Photographer | Chris Rose

eMedia Managing Editor | Alyssa J. Miller
eMedia Editor | Sarah Deener
eMedia Associate Editors | Jim Moore, Benét Wilson
eMedia Production Assistant | Melissa Whitehouse

VP Advertising | Carol L. Dodds
Advertising Director | Brenda D. Ridgley
Online Advertising Manager | Michael Wilcox
Advertising Marketing Manager | Eryn Willard
Advertising Coordinator | Donna Stoner
Advertising Representative |
The Orison B. Curpier Co., Inc.
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South Central, West | 214-789-6094

Editorial and Advertising Offices
421 Aviation Way, Frederick, MD 21701
301-695-2350 / FAX 301-695-2180
email: flighttraining@aopa.org
Copyright © 2014, Aircraft Owners and Pilots
Association. All rights reserved. No part of this monthly
magazine may be reproduced or translated, stored in a
database or retrieval system, or transmitted in any form
by electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or
other means, except as expressly permitted by the publisher; requests should be directed to the editor.
This publication is presented with the understanding
that the information it contains comes from many sources
for which there can be no warranty or responsibility by
the publisher as to accuracy, originality, or completeness.
It is presented with the understanding that the publisher
is not engaged in rendering product endorsements or
providing instruction as a substitute for appropriate
training by qualified sources.
Flight Training will consider unsolicited submissions.
All manuscripts and contributions should be sent to
flighttraining@aopa.org. Reasonable care will be taken
in handling manuscripts, but the magazine assumes no
responsibility for material submitted.


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Flight Training - November 2014

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Flight Training - November 2014

Contents
Flight Training - November 2014 - Cover1
Flight Training - November 2014 - Cover2
Flight Training - November 2014 - Contents
Flight Training - November 2014 - 2
Flight Training - November 2014 - 3
Flight Training - November 2014 - 4
Flight Training - November 2014 - 5
Flight Training - November 2014 - 6
Flight Training - November 2014 - 7
Flight Training - November 2014 - 8
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Flight Training - November 2014 - Cover3
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