Ask the pilot: Is it possible to fly “over” the weather?

Even the most experienced travelers have many questions about the inner workings of airplanes.How do they react to weather conditions? What do all the noises mean? How do they take off and land? The experts with the answers are, of course, the pilots.

About Jostein Sørli                          

Age: 34
Career: Alongside his pilot training, Sørli worked as ground staff in Tromsø. He then flew Boeing 737s for another airline before joining SAS three years ago.
Home base: OSL
Flies: Boeing 737
Flight hours: 3,500

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Is it possible to fly “over” the weather?
- Carl

Hi Carl,

I would say that with modern jet aircraft, most of the time we actually do fly over the weather. In Scandinavia, we often have quite foul weather during the fall and winter and most of the time, we climb well above it to enjoy a nice, comfortable cruise.

During the summer, how­ever, and especially over Central Europe, thunderclouds can grow to very high altitudes, even higher than our planes are able to fly. This forces us to fly around them as these clouds contain extreme wea­ther we don’t want to fly in.

Such weather can include thunder and lightning, hail and strong winds. Sometimes, we see these clouds easily through our windows. But at other times, they can be hidden inside other clouds and if it’s dark outside, we may not see them.

To help us detect and navigate around the weather, all of our aircraft have radar transmitters and receivers mounted on the nose. The radar detects drops of water and ice and thereby shows us where intensive cloud formations are. From this information, we can usually quite easily navigate around any large-scale cloud formations.

On the way in and out of airports, we are sometimes forced to fly through bad weather. Most of the time, ­travelers experience it as nothing more than light turbulence. They may, however, feel uncomfortable at other times due to winds and turbulent conditions. I can assure you that all aircraft are built and certified to withstand this and much more.

First Officer Jostein Sørli

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