Tag Archives: aviation safety

LAMP Looks Ahead With Sensible Aviation Weather Elements at Over 1,500 Airports

Most pilots are dedicated aviation weather geeks because, at the least, their lives, and those of their passengers depend on the crew’s current knowledge of what Mother Nature is doing at Chicago Executive Airport, the flight’s destination, and everything between them. To the list of the weather information sources that pilots frequent, the National Weather Service has added LAMP, for Localized Aviation Model-Output-Statistics (MOS) Program.

In other words, LAMP focuses on more than 1,500 airports (including Chicago Executive) and provides forecast guidance on “sensible weather elements.” Sensible means they are “perceivable elements” of weather, such as temperature, dew point, wind speed, direction, and gusts, sky cover, ceiling, visibility, obstruction to vision, precipitation and type, lightning, and convective activity. And as the capture from the PWK page shows, pilots can select the sensible elements they want to see. They can also get the same info in text form, if they are so inclined.

What makes LAMP a worthwhile weather product addition to any pilot’s weather briefing resources is that it is totally automated. On the downside, it might not be as accurate as a forecast tweaked by a human meteorologist, but the LAMP graphic is updated hourly. This hourly update incorporates the latest surface conditions to create hourly forecasts that look up to 25 hours into the future. Regardless of who or what is predicting the weather, no source is 100 percent, so LAMP pairs nicely with human-involved weather products such as a Terminal Aerodrome Forecast (TAF).

At each airport’s LAMP page pilots can access fresh forecast info for the next 24 hours. The page delivers both “categorical and probabilistic forecast guidance” on the given elements, and using the selection click-boxes at the top of the page, pilots can extract the information they want. When selecting the ceiling and visibility category forecast, it includes a “conditional forecast” that takes precipitation into account. “This data attempts to account for some of the temporary fluctuations that occur in flight.”

To learn more about the LAMP, visit its homepage on the Meteorological Development Lab.

Laser Pointers: Tool, Toy & Anti-Aircraft Weapon

faa-photo-laser3-highest-res-1936x1296When focusing the audience’s attention on the pertinent portions of a PowerPoint presentation, the laser pointer is a tool. When exercising your cats by giving them a red or green dot to chase, the laser pointer is a toy.

When you point it skyward, it can be an anti-aircraft weapon.

And when you point it with purpose at an airplane, it is a federal offense subject to stiff fines (up to $250,000 and $11,000 for each violation) and possible relocation to a secure facility that will limit your view of the sky for up to 20 years.

As aviation-aware readers of the Chicago Exec blog, you already know this, and you fully understand the multitude of unhappy consequences for a pilot—and his or her passengers—blinded by a laser pointer. But members of your extended family, friends, acquaintances, coworkers, and colleagues may not know that thoughtlessly aiming a laser pointer skyward—especially around any airport—can lead to bad things. So we urge you to share this story with them through your social media connections.

Looking at the period-size dot of light the cat chases, you may wonder why pointing a laser (which stands for “light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation”) at an aircraft is such a bad thing. What are the chances of hitting a moving target with that little dot of light, anyway? (Better than you think, which is why laser sights on assault weapons are so popular.) Without getting too deep into Big Bang physics, spatial coherence focuses the light into the dot cats love to chase, and it allows that dot to be projected over great distances.

But the dot does grow with distance, and by the time it reaches an aircraft flying at 1,000 feet above the ground, it is many times bigger that a period of light. When it hits the minutely scratched surface of an aircraft windscreen, it instantly diffuses, creating a flash of intensely bright light. If you want to experience this for yourself, find a friend and good-sized camera strobe, go outside on a dark night and wait 20 minutes for your night vision to stabilize, then have your friend hold the strobe at windscreen distance from your open eyes. When your friend fires the strobe, without warning, into your open eyes, he or she should note the time to see how long it takes for you to see anything other than the flash.

Now imagine that you, if you’re a pilot, or your pilot, if you’re not, were on final approach and cleared to land at Chicago Executive Airport when the laser flash blinded you. This is but one example of the hazards and effects of a laser strike.

For more information, the latest laser news, laws, and civil penalties, and a pilot safety information brochure, visit the FAA’s Laser Safety Initiative website. Pilots can also report a laser incident on the site, and they can rest assured that the FAA, FBI, and local authorities will use this information to identify—and track down—repeat offenders.