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Home > Thunderstorms > Thunderstorm issues in the South Atlantic
Thunderstorm issues in the South Atlantic
Weather - Thunderstorms
Sunday, 04 March 2012 02:42

Weather Radar Map Display of Thunderstorms

Dear Captain Lim,

Thank you for answering my previous question about thunderstorms over the Atlantic. This clears things a lot. I still have few questions and would be very grateful if you could answer them...

1. You said that the pilots will always try to avoid the red spots on the radar. But what, if there are only red spots and there is no detour option? How dangerous would it be then?

2. Why did Air France fly into this area even though other planes using the same route flew around?

3. I heard there is no radar when flying over the ocean and that they use tracks. Do pilots still know their position to ground and to other airplanes without radar or they only find it out through contacting air traffic controllers on the ground?

4. If there is a thunderstorm on the track and the pilots want to change the route, do they have to first get permission from the air traffic controllers before doing so?

5. I know North Atlantic tracks are called NATs. Is there such thing as SATs? Or how do the pilots fly over south Atlantic and other oceans??

I would very much appreciate your help, since I want to learn to fly without fear.



Hi David,

1. There are gaps in between the red spots or the most intense part of the thunderstorms as shown in the two accompanied videos. Pilots would avoid them like the plague unless it was not captured on the weather radar due to wrong setting or tilt position.

How dangerous it is? Please see my answer in Travel 3Sixty top 10 FAQ  ‘WHAT ARE THE DANGERS OF FLYING INTO A THUNDERSTORM?here.

2. The thunderstorms were along the route. Yes the pilots, as in the case of the other planes, should have flown around them. As mentioned earlier, the radar display was probably not correctly set or tilted in order to display the returns clearly.

3. Yes, I believe they were out of the range of ground radar stations but pilots are aware of their position all the time with the on-board GPS.

4. Yes, the pilots would need to inform air traffic controllers if they are deviating off their route.

5. Unlike NATs in the North Atlantic which cater for the heavy traffic flow between Europe and the US, there are no SATs down South due to the comparatively lesser planes flying along the route.

PS. To check for any latest updates or postings, you can follow my new Twitter at @CaptKHLim

Thunderstorms as seen on Weather Radar


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Boeing 747-400
Dear Captain Lim
I will be traveling from EWR to Germany on Lufthansa Boeing 747-400 , how safe is theat type of aircraft?
Jose , 05 Mar, 2012

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