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What clouds are safe to fly into?

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I know to avoid CB, but anyone have any others they avoid. I fly a Blackhawk with blade de-ice. Even with the de-ice I can only handle moderate icing.


I was tasked to fly a mission the other day and the weather reported TCU (towering cumulus) at the destination with light turbulence and winds at 070 around 40KTS. Anyway I wasn't sure what kind of conditions I would see. I have flown through some cumulus with some vertical build around 10 or 12 thousand and there were some pretty good up and down drafts and some turbulence and icing and I didn't really want to deal with anything to much worse but I didn't want to cancel either. I didn't end up going because of Maintenence but I'm just wondering if anyone has experience flying through TCU clouds?


The only stuff I can find talks about light airplanes avoiding them but I'm in a 16,000lb helicopter so I'm not sure. All the people I work with weren't sure what TCU meant or if it was a big deal.

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Hi Bob;-)


Your aircraft is small. 16k Pounds is not much when it comes to cumulus type clouds. Anti-ice is nice to have, but do you have a weatherradar? Because thats the tool you need to avoid the nasty stuff. I fly Aircrafts that weight 30 times yours and burn in on hour more fuel than your MTOW is and i never ever would consider to penetrate a cloud without first check it with my wx-radar. Massive potential to damage your gear.


Without a wx-rdr you can not fly into anykind of clouds. Embedded CB in stratoform clouds would be a nice suprice;-) If you pick your old Meteobooks, you will find out that many cumulus type of cloud have potential hazards.






Static charging


Because nothing comes purebred in the nature, most clouds will be a mixture of Cu,Cb,Ts,Tc etc... How are you going to know whats inside of that big couliflower buildup without a wx-rdr? Just google pics of haildamage of aircrafts. Nasty stuff.


There are no anti-icing systems approved for heavy icing. They all are only approved for moderate icing.


So without the full kit, means wx-rdr and A/I its only guesswork.


Good luck







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Some of the worst icing I have encountered has been during late spring to early summer in cumuliform clouds. Towering cumulus are ready at any minute to be mature thunderstorms. TCU's are the unofficial stage between cumulus and mature, and are best avoided. Stratus type clouds are the best clouds to transit if you have to, do know your forecast to be aware of the possibility of embedded thunderstorms, like the previous poster mentioned. In my experience embeddeds are rare.

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Warmkiter- No, I don't have weather radar, but I still must fly into clouds so I must use my best judgement. Thunderstorms are a no brainer, everything else I'm trying to find a good rule of thumb. Embedded storms are a big concern, which is why when I see masses of large cumulus I'm concerned.


Eric Hunt- Nobody there that day, and there were six or seven guys who are experienced. I had never seen TCU on a report either so I looked it up. I never really hear any talk about types of clouds. It is simply- TS are predicted or not, and if they're not the expectation is you can go.

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thunderstorms will kill you, its as simple as that, and this comes from a guy that flies both airplanes and helicopters. Go around them or wait till they dissipate. When it comes to icing, all deicing or anti icing equipment dose for you is to give you some time to get out of it. I don't know what moderate Icing as defined by you would be. I know I would be looking to be someplace else. Get on top of it or into warmer air, Another condition what you would not want to be any were near is freezing rain, A black hawk is a very capable helicopter, but its a helicopter never the less and its going to have more limits on the weather flying aspect than say a King Air or a Lear Jet, they have limits too. Just that with those aircraft that might be a ho hum flight would turn you into a smoking hole some place. On the civil side, most of the helicopters being flown are not even certified for IFR let along known Icing conditions. Light rime Ice is one thing, Moderate clear Icing is some thing else all together. Most pilots who live long enough will scare themselves enough not to mess with it. This is a natural occurrence if you fly long enough and learn from the experience.

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If I can gives my .02,


Any form of clouds can be dangerous. Try to avoid it.


A remember a C172 taking ~600 pound of ice in few minutes inside a nimbostratus looking so nice...

We recover the wreckage...full of ice, wings bended down due to ice's weight.

Luckily the crew manage to land before the story goes really wrong.

After years flying in some "freaking" conditions within military fixed wing, my best advice is to do whatever you can to avoid as much as possible to play with cowliflowers clouds!

Even with a nice a shiny blackhawk!


Fly safe...

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Unfortunately I can't turn down all flights into icing. As a rule what most people I work with follow is that trace means light and light means moderate so we don't go into forecast moderate because the ice rate meter in the aircraft will register as heavy. I also follow the rules of Army Europe requiring certain max tops and min ceiling so if de-icing fails there is a way to climb or descend out of it.


I guess I'm kind of thinking that any cumulus with vertical build over ten thousand feet is something I want to avoid. Though not a thunderstorm (yet) when I flew through them in June there was turbulence, icing, and up and down drafts and what im pretty sure was hail because i could here it hitting the aircraft. If it were winter it could've developed into a bad situation. I was just wondering if somebody else had their own guidelines they follow in helicopters. I typically can't climb over 10,000 so I have to fly in some cumulus for my job, but when I saw the people I worked with willing to fly into TCU I thought maybe I was making something out of nothing.

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TCU are almost/maybe thunderstorms. You don't know the difference until it is a thunderstorm- or it dissipates. I wouldn't take that lightly, and glad I don't have to make that call.


I have heard liquid rain that rattled like hail. Until yo see the hailstones ricocheting or the dents, it can be hard to tell.

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