Whether in the air or not, I’m always on the lookout for inclement weather. It’s amazing what you can see from a few hundred feet up or at cruising altitude – and for what I don’t catch I’m glad to have my aircraft’s onboard weather radar. Radar detects precipitation, which, if significant, implies turbulence because the air is unstable and moving about and can cause a bumpy ride.
The radar is housed in the nose of an airliner – it’s called a radome (radar dome), and it can be hinged open for servicing. Weather radar was derived from World War II technology (just like its cousin, the microwave oven). Radar sends out pulses of microwave energy, and precipitation reflects it back to the receiver. It is a great detector of rain, but other types of precipitation reflect less energy so a pilot must challenge these “returns.”