Wind Shear and Microburst Avoidance 

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Summer operations are upon us with the inherent events of wind shear and microbursts. Whether you are a student pilot or an experienced professional, it is imperative to recognize the characteristics of these weather events, but most importantly, to have impact prevention and mitigation strategies.

It is well documented that thunderstorms are associated with downburst and wind shear activity and that rapid changes in wind speed and/or direction negatively affect aircraft performance, potentially exceeding capabilities. The implications of these violent winds, particularly on takeoff and approach, pose a major threats. 

Always consider delaying takeoff if wind shear advisories are in effect. Airport sensors and low-level wind shear alert systems have the capability of communicating real-time information to ATC. Controllers are mandated to broadcast any wind shear alerts within the established network. It is within the PIC’s authority to reject a takeoff clearance if safety is compromised. 

During the approach phase, lack of altitude to recover deems the situation even more critical. The closer to the ground, the smaller the margin for error. As an example, if the pilot overcorrects to a rapid loss in altitude and airspeed, the aircraft may land long exceeding the available runway’s distance. Conversely, an overcorrection may lead to landing short if not enough power is applied to counteract the shear value airspeed loss. 

Regardless of the scenario, be prepared to execute an immediate go-around and discontinue the approach. More importantly, understand your aircraft’s capabilities, available thrust, and account for your level of experience. Utilize all available resources, such as ATC and onboard radar equipment, to make the most informed decisions. Previously issued PIREPs can be exceptionally valuable, as they may indicate specific information unknown to the air traffic controller, such as any airspeed fluctuations during approach. However, it is important to emphasize that PIREPs are aircraft specific and the information does not translate to all types of aircraft.

As technology has evolved over the years, the ability for ATC to immediately issue wind shear alerts has become more reliable. Yet, there remains a joint responsibility but ultimately the PIC bears the final authority for the safe operation of the aircraft. If you feel uncomfortable with an ATC instruction, whether lateral or vertical clearance, do not hesitate to speak up and alter your request. 

Finally, training contributes a major role in recognition of and reaction times to hazards. Many air carriers are mandated to include wind shear and upset recovery training for all pilots, both during initial and recurrent training. As a general aviation pilot, make sure you are routinely practicing and chair-flying multiple-encounter scenarios during different phases of flight. The more practiced you are, the better prepared you will be to handle the aircraft and react effectively. 

SOURCEAero Crew News, June 2022
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Sergio Sovero was born and raised in Lima, Peru. At the age of 17, he moved to the United States to attend Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) in Daytona Beach, Florida. Sergio obtained a Bachelor of Science in Aeronautical Science in 2017, graduating Magna Cum Laude. He served as a flight instructor at ERAU, while assuming several leadership roles within the Flight Department. These included: Flight Supervisor, Quality Assurance Instructor, and Assistant Training Manager. He also developed additional training material, in support of furthering the curriculum and improving the quality of instruction. Such involvement lead to his recognition as “Flight Instructor of the Month”, as well as “Excellence in Quality of Instruction” awards. Sovero holds a Gold Seal CFI, AGI and IGI ratings. Upon meeting the minimum requirements, he joined Republic Airways, where he participated as a Pilot Recruiter and Interviewer. Joining Delta Air Lines at 23 years old, he holds A-320, B-757/767, DC-9 & ERJ-170 type ratings. Sergio is an active member of the ERAU Prescott Aerospace Advisory Board (AAB). As such, he provides unique perspectives to the College of Aviation regarding curriculum development. In response to his special interest in sustainable practices, Sergio is pursuing a Master of Science in Aviation and Aerospace Sustainability (MSAS), with a Human Factors Specialization, and is passionate about mentoring the next generation of professional pilots. He resides in Atlanta, loves traveling, and frequently visits his home town of Lima.

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