Not to be outdone, Honeywell and Rockwell Collins have introduced some amazing radars of their own, which are capable of scanning radar images into their memory and processing the data to create 3-D models of storms and dissect the weather hundreds of miles ahead.
Other Weather Options
If you aren’t quite ready to spring for onboard radar, another good option for real-time weather detection, as we’ve noted, is a lighting strike finder. L-3 Avionics Systems’ Stormscope line of lightning mapping systems has been one of the most popular for many years. This is the same basic technology that has been around for a long time, under the ownership of a number of companies, including Ryan, 3M and Goodrich Aerospace.
Another choice is Avidyne’s TWX670 lightning strike finder, which wins out over the Stormscope in one regard: It can detect strikes from 0 to 25 nm while the L-3 unit does not. Personally, I’d like to know about close-in strikes even though I realize I’m not supposed to be flying this near to storms. Neither the Stormscope nor the TWX670 can see precipitation, but by detecting the electrical activity present as storms build, this technology can provide an accurate and early view of areas to avoid. Having both Nexrad and real-time lightning detection offers an undeniable edge.
The latest Stormscope products can interface with a variety of cockpit displays and are capable of showing lightning strikes at ranges of 25, 50, 100 and 200 nm, 360 degrees around your current position. The units update lightning information every second and include a “strike rate indicator” that tells you whether a storm appears to be building or dissipating. Most popular among the GA crowd is the WX-500 model, which can integrate with just about any MFD sold as well as panel-mount avionics such as Garmin’s G1000, Avidyne’s Entegra and Rockwell Collins’ Pro Line 21 systems. L-3 also offers the WX-950 Stormscope, which uses a high-resolution, 3-inch display/processor, and at the top of the model range, the WX-1000, which is capable of supporting Arinc 429 EFIS inputs for higher-end installations in business aircraft.
Whatever technology you decide to include in your cockpit, understanding the benefits and limitations of your equipment can help you avoid making the kind of serious mistakes that can lead to problems in flight. And remember, no amount of in-flight weather technology can guarantee that you won’t inadvertently end up someplace you’ll wish you weren’t. Avoiding those kinds of situations goes back to proper preflight planning, a solid understanding of meteorology basics, knowing your airplane’s performance and always having a Plan B for when forecast conditions turn out worse than expected.