For COPA members (and folks who aren’t members), I highly recommend Scott Dennstaedt’s seminar series called “Weather or Not” based on a satisfying experience last weekend in San Jose. Next one is in Palm Springs in a couple of weeks.
Scott would be familiar to COPA forum readers through his numerous weather-related (and FAR/AIM-related) posts and his offers of weather briefings through COPA TAN. I met him at the Van Nuys CPPP where he gave a very interesting segment on thunderstorms tailored to the experiences of west coast pilots – not much! Based on that CPPP session and several conversations with Scott about weather decisions (he expressed some concern for my flight to the Bahamas past a typical line of severe Texas thunderstorms), I had high expectations – and they were met.
The seminar presented four half-day segments:
- numerical weather prediction
- NEXRAD weather radar
- Skew-T diagrams (thermodynamic charts)
The segments built on the experience gained in earlier segments, such as how skew-T diagrams relate to the numerical models. So there was a natural flow to the material that kept my interest and helped broaden my appreciation for the weather resources available and how to interpret them, even how to avoid misinterpreting them. The numerical model stuff helped explain the way forecast data gets generated and how it can be interpreted; and with so much stuff available on the web, it was helpful to appreciate the risks of different runs and valid times. The NEXRAD segment underscored the challenge of getting reliable, accurate and timely information to interpret. Several of us were keenly interested in AnywhereWX and other cockpit weather displays based on NEXRAD mosaic presentations. The Skew-T segment was the most technical and intellectual challenging. Those are the charts with about half-a-dozen different scales depicted on the same x-axis! [:O] And they don’t even use straight lines! However, it was amazing how much interpretation could be made from that data. Folks who have read COPA posts about Skew-T diagrams are just touching the surface of the subject and I welcomed the in-depth opportunity of this seminar. And finally, the TAF segment was a more practical one that showed the research that Scott had done to prepare the seminar and write his recent IFR article. My head hurt after it was over, but is was informative, stimulating and useful.
Scott is a gifted instructor who adapts well to interactive questions. At times, weather stuff can drone on and folks can get sleepy, but the pace was varied, occasional interactive exercises stimulated us, and the audience interactions worked really well. Our audience consisted of 14 pilots, 3/4 of whom were COPA members and Cirrus familiar. Fun for me was realizing that I was again among a bunch of Silicon Valley engineers, something that defines the level of humor and intensity of the interactions! [:D]
Top marks for the quality of the projected materials. The presentations were done in PowerPoint slides with lots of graphics. A copy of the presentations was handed out on a CD; useful for review and more patient analysis of some of the charts, schematics and graphs. Interestingly, Scott seems obsessive with the technique for revealing points one at a time, but the organization of his material was so good, that lots and lots of time, questions were answered by exactly the next slide. [H] In my experience, that takes a gift of understanding your audience and organizing the material to reveal itself in ways that make sense to people.
Aviation weather may not be high on your holiday wish list. But the value to me of the seminar for working through the variety of weather data products available, adding several new tools to my repertoire, and understanding what I already knew in new ways, all added up to worth the time and effort.
And I like the idea of supporting COPA members who support the safety mission of COPA. Scott is among good company with instructors like Matt and Luke, Bahamas trip planners like Marty, TAA reps like Mike, and a host of others that I’ve met through this community.
Great job, Scott. Thanks for the weekend.
ps. Attached is a photo with Scott presenting some icing material with an attentive audience after lunch on the second day!