Stormscope - what do you get out of it

I am currently at the stage of specifying my options for my Cirrus. So far it’s config B, with dual alternators, and tentatively with Sandel and Avidyne EX5000C

Firstly I have got to say this forum is great. It’s helped me make some decisions. I will send the forum the bill for the Sandel!

I am a VFR pilot and working on my instrument rating at the moment. I am trying to figure out whether to get Stormscope. The best answer to this depends on what type of flying I plan to do and where I plan to fly. However I was looking for some feedback on what people with Stormscope get out of it.

Is it the reassurance that comes from being able to see the storms when in cloud and then avoid them?

Does it add much in terms of decreasing the likelihood you will be held up by bad weather?

Thanks in anticipation
Tony Shields


I find the stormscope pretty handy. Flying on the east coast, many summer afternoons end up with some widely scattered thunderstorms. The sscope is useful for avoiding those areas when you may not be able to see them (either you might be in clouds or perhaps the strikes are 20+ miles away and you might not be able to see that far in the summer haze).

It’s also useful for seeing the long range picture when viewing the 200 nm range on the MFD. Nice to know if your route, an hour from now, might be near some big convective activity, even if everything looks great out the window right now.

I also flew for some time in the SF bay area a few years back. In that environment, given the scarcity of storms, I’d probably not spend the money on the stormscope.

Just my opinion…


I live in the midwest and wouldn’t leave home without the scope. Per the other responses, it will help keep you out of place you don’t want to wander into.

Tony: Another option to consider is the satellite weather receiver for the Avidyne. Take a look at the Avidyne web site for both the weather receiver and the engine monitor screens.

The Avidyne satellite weather receiver will show the NEXRAD, the government weather radar date mapped onto the Avidyne screen to whatever range you have set on the Avidyne. This is showing the radar return from moisture in the clouds and not the electrical discharge data that the Stormscope is showing. It is also about 1/2 the price of the Stormscope and shows a lot more, particularly the color coded nearest airports on the “nearest” page and the detailed page for your destination airport.

You will have to pay a monthly subscription for the data and you may have to wait for availability. I recall hearing, secondhand, from one of the seminars put on at the last AOPA convention that between Stormscope and a satellite weather receiver that the satellite weather receiver was the more valuable.

However, the answer will also depend on where you are flying. If you are in thunderstorm territory, you need the Stormscope.

My two cents: Most of the time with good pre-flighting, you won’t need the stormscope. And it certainly doesn’t pick up everything you need to avoid. But if you do significant IFR, sooner or later you’ll credit it with saving your can. I was on a late night IFR down south, got no warnings from ATC about bad weather ahead. But the stormscope lit up like crazy, so I called Flightwatch. Sure enough, there was a monster TS ahead (as only the south can breed them) moving toward me at 40-50 knots and full of one-inch hail. Given the darkness, there is no way I would have seen that coming without the stormscope.

Personally, I’d opt for both the stormscope and the on-board weather/radar images. As I am not currently in line to purchase a cirrus, I plan to get one of those weather receivers that work through a pocket pc. You simply can’t have too much weather info in IFR flying.

Tony, I live in SC and fly the SE mainly. I’ve used either Stormscope or Strikefinder for 15 years. I would have canceled many of my flights without it aboard. It is very accurate. It has probably increased my risk exposure in a fashion. I will fly in weather that I would not fly in without a Stormscope aboard. I find the Strikefinder and Stormscope to be approximately equal in their abilities. NEXRAD alone in the cockpit is inadequate to fly in the vicinity of thunderstorm activity. The downtime of the radomes is unpredictable and many are down during times of intense convective activity. I suggest that those interested check the national status of the NWS doppler system and compare it to the national radar plots. It gets interesting at times. I find it also interesting that thusfar none of nexrad vendors have been able to give and exact number for the the percentage of time that data is unavailable. I see a major negative of NEXRAD to be the fact that a scan can take up to several minutes. I’m told up to seven minutes. Even three minutes is too long to maneuver in the vicinity of thunderstorms. I try to keep a 20 mile distance from cells. Traveling at a ground speed of 160 kts with a cell moving toward you at 35 knots you can see how 3 minute old info is not of much value. NEXRAD would be SOME value, so don’t think I don’t value it. It simply would not be sufficient to replace on board live readings as provided by Stormscope, Strikefinder, or radar. Does anyone out there have detailed information about the times I’ve mentioned above?Clark Jernigan

Agree with what others have said about the value of a stormscope, especially if you fly where thunderstorms are imbedded. On your last question about a storm scope decreasing the likelihood of being held up by weather, you should not expect to be able to use the storm scope to weave your way in between imbedded thunderstorms. You can’t really see what is behind the closest storms. On the other hand you may well be able to fly around the whole group of storms. However, there are times when there is no way around and you just have to wait it out.


I just returned from Duluth to pickup my SR22 and it has stormscope and skywatch. I am VFR 150hrs about to take IFR checkride. Would not trade stormscope or skywatch for the world. If you can afford them both, you won’t be sorry. Also, the Sandel and Avidyne are incredible!! DO NOT substitute these two for the inferior ARNAV or Century HSI.
sorry to all you ARNAV guys, don’t mean to offend you! Also, engine monitoring for Avidyne will be available within a few months.


At the risk of duplicating another’s comment, I am in the midwest and simply would not fly without the stormscope.

On a trip from the Wichita area to Ohio this past Sunday, the St. Louis FSS Wx briefer gave me 5 minutes of doom and gloom about thunderstorms in process at my Ohio destination, telling me my intended VFR flight was not recommended. But monitoring my stormscope en route revealed that the storms were moving on to the east (no surprise there).

The flight was made in safe VFR conditions and was quite uneventful from a weather point of view. Without the stormscope, I would not have continued the flight.

Good luck with your selections and enjoy your new aircraft.

Be safe up there.


Thanks to everyone for their responses. Since I live in Australia, the weather in, say, the Midwest, has a little less relevance for me! But I sure know now that I have got to understand my own weather a bit better.
If I was to fit Stormscope after market, I understand that it would not be too much extra hassle. Can anyone confirm or deny?
Thanks again

Tony, Steve offered a very nice opinion and most worthy. He is right on target. It is a relatively inexpensive tool to help assist in your decision making. Go get your IFR rating. It is worth its weight in gold. Be sure to practice all of the type approaches and learn to know and understand the procedures without any hesitation. A useful training tool that I have purchased for my son who is learning the flying game is the Microsoft 2002 Pro Simulator with the yoke attachment. About +/-$170. It is a great training devise for IFR. Don

I agree, it depends on the characteristics of the weather where you’ll be flying. In 15 years and 1200+ hr flying, mostly in California, Arizona, Oregon, & Nevada, I cannot recall a single circumstance where I wish I had been equipped with a stormscope. T-storms are almost always visible from a long ways off. If there are embedded T storms out here, the WX is usually bad enough that you would not be flying for a variety of reasons. On the other hand friends who are midwest or east coast pilots swear by them. An avionics shop in Wichita KS where I have had equipment installed could not believe I wouldn’t want a stormscope in the panel. If T storms are obscured by haze or other clouds you can run right into one and risk emerging as “scattered Cirrus.”

Tony, there are several things in aviation that can kill you. thunderstorms are one of them. If you plan to fly in areas where thunderstorms are common (Midwest, Southeast, Northeast especially) then you need to consider some sort of thunderstorm avoidance. The problem with storms in those areas is that they are frequently “embedded”, that is to say in areas of diffuse clouds where they cannot be seen. Out west thunderstorms are often localized and surrounded by VFR conditions where they can be seen and avoided. Where I fly in the Midwest that’s not often the case. The Stormscope displays electrical activity. that activity is associated with convection and convection is associated with turbulence. If you can avoid convection you will avoid the weather that can literally rip the wings off your airplane.
The Stormscope can show you all electrical activity within about 200 miles of your position. This makes it much easier to avoid weather that you really don’t want to fly in. Is it worth it? Personally in my part of the country I wouldn’t fly without it or radar. Nexrad will be nice but for me it will be supplemental to the Stormscope.

I own the Microsoft Professional simulator, as well as the ASA OnTop. My experience is the MS is more fun; ASA much better trainer.


Dear Jerrold,

I also understand that NEXRAD will only be available in the continental 50 US states, so everybody outside (like in Europe) will have no use for the satellite receiver.

So the Stormscope might be the best option for some of us.

In The Netherlands, most CB’s are embedded and pilots are known to be vectored in CB’s by controllers…

The Netherlands Europe

Only one problem with that - Tony is in Australia, and I don’t think it would be a good idea to hold your breath till satellite weather is available here!

Do they vector the CB’s as well?

This embedded humor, right :wink:


In reply to:

Personally, I’d opt for both the stormscope and the on-board weather/radar images.

Makes sense. But here’s a possible third option that nobody’s talked about yet:
Real-time downloaded lightning maps
Click here to take a look at a description of the National Lightning Detection Network®(NLDN®). According to their blurb, “Lightning data is displayed within seconds of occurrence.” What if we could get that lightning map along with / overlaid upon downloaded NEXRAD on our MFDs?

Just as NEXRAD is vastly superior to even airliner onboard radar, perhaps this land-based lightning detection system can be vastly superior to a Stormscope, mitigating adverse factors such as radial spread by the use of multiple detection sites and correlation.

This could be a considerable benefit. At the Stormscope seminar put on by AOPA last November, the lecturer asked for a show of hands by Stormscope (and Strikefinder) owners. About 150 hands went up. Then he asked how many felt they could really effectively interpret and use their equipment. Maybe 15 hands went up. So there is obviously a very steep learning curve in understanding and dealing with the inherent problems with these systems.

So, assuming the update time was fast enough, what do you think of the prospects of using downloaded lightning maps? What would be the minimum acceptable update period?

Gordon, I think the lightning strike data would be a great help. I’m somewhat familiar with the site. I believe that it records only ground strike data. I’ve been impressed at the amount of cloud to cloud lightning I sometimes see. ATC asked for a pirep on one flight and I counted 30 flashes per minute! A spectacular display! Most were cloud to cloud. A ground strike system might understate the severity of such a monster. ( Of couse a smart pilot would’nt get close to even one ground strike)Clark Jernigan