top of page


​Thunderstorms are one of the most dangers weather phenomena for aircraft.

Thunderstorm Formation:

For thunderstorms to form there are three sufficient things that must be present. They are:

  • Sufficient water vapor

  • Unstable conditions

  • Initial lifting action

Thunderstorms can reach altitudes as high as 50,000 – 60,000 feet. It is not usual for thunderstorms to grow as high as 75,000 feet, especially in the tropic areas. The taller the thunderstorm is the more dangerous and intense it is.

Lift Cycle:

There are three stages to a thunderstorm life cycle, they are:

  • Cumulus stage – The beginning stage of the storm has strong updrafts or the lifting action of moist air to create the formation of cumulonimbus clouds.

  • Mature stage – It takes approximately 15 minutes to reach this stage. Moisture falls in the form of rain or hail, along with downward and updraft air creating strong turbulence. When vertical motion of air begins to slow down the top forms an anvil shape and begins the next stage.

  • Dissipating stage – The final stage of the storm has downdrafts or downward motion of air, which intensifies and spreads out. It is also the sign that the storm is dying out.


Small aircraft, even most large aircraft cannot fly over a thunderstorm. Flying under a thunderstorm is NEVER a good idea, due to strong downdrafts, violent turbulence, lightning, hail, etc. Always fly around a thunderstorm at least 20NM. The safest way to avoid thunderstorms is to, NOT fly at all and just wait it the storm out on the ground.

If you plan on flying at night, remember you can't see thunderstorms at night. The only way to see a thunderstorm in the area is by the lightning. If you see lighting close by, turn around or land immediately. ​


Leave your comments below


bottom of page