Rain or shine, Thunder must go on

Thunder air show facing potential cloud ceiling challenges

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Sunshine and clear skies are the ideal weather for the high-flying tricks in an air show. Unfortunately, this year's Thunder Over Louisville looks to be a little soggier than the last few years. The cloud ceiling is expected to be a factor in the air show.

"Legally the FAA gives us a waiver from certain regulations to have an air show, hard rule in that is 1500 feet, 3 miles, so everyone is affected by it," said Thunder Air Boss and Air Show Director Mike Riordan.

"It becomes a question of what is the minimum that we need to start or to do any portion of the air show, well the bare minimum is 1,500 feet for the cloud deck and 3 mile visibility, in a case like that you do what they call a flat show basically the aircraft can fly through the box, you can’t do any rolls or loops or anything of that nature, any complex maneuvers but you can make some steep departure turns, something like that," said Meteorologist and Pilot Reed Yadon.

You may be used to seeing Meteorologist Reed Yadon giving the First Alert Storm Team forecast, but he's a pilot with more than 30 years of experience. He explained that the cloud ceiling is the base of the clouds, something important for pilots to pay attention to.

"It is all about safety, these are not mission critical flights, so it is all about safety," said Yadon. "The question comes up, well we fly in clouds all the time, yes we do, but not in an air show. You need too many visual, outside visual cues in an air show. Not to say you couldn't do some of these maneuvers by reference to instrument, but it’s something that is just not safe and isn’t going to happen."

"If you are doing maneuvers, you are going to be using unusual altitudes. You need plenty of air underneath you to recover from anything it is a safety issue and also the higher you are, the more people can see you, the better the act looks," said Riordan.

Despite the rain in the forecast, parts of the show are expected to go on.

"On Saturday, overnight and in the morning, we are looking at some rain and at times, considerable rain, but by the afternoon. I am anticipating the rain tapering down, clouds will be our issue. The ceilings might be a little bit low, but in working with Louisville International and Bowman field and the pilots, we're comfortable we are going to be able to get aircraft up during the day on Saturday afternoon," said Riordan.

"Thunder is now 28 years old and we've never had to cancel a show, and our plan is that we constantly reassess conditions. We will be doing that up until day of and during the day as well," said Mike Berry
President and CEO Kentucky Derby Festival, "Also threatening weather can affect the time of the fireworks, but again we kind of assess that as we go, it is our intention since there really isn't a rain date for Thunder, infrastructure is so massive that you couldn't just break it apart and say oh we'll come back tomorrow and do it." 

© 2017 WHAS-TV


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