Crappy weather

Here is another strip that is not invented. It comes with a great little story, maybe even a moral to the story:

A few years back I was supposed to fly a helicopter back to its base in LA after it had been an exhibit in Las Vegas at Heli Expo. We had flown the helicopters out of the convention center and to an airport nearby the night before. The weather was really bad all around us and many pilots chose not to go any further than that, including me. The next morning the weather was still less than ideal on my route but the forecast looked like it was clearing up. Knowing the route like the back of my hand and the local area I kept an eye on the dark cloud south of my house. I could see the pass I needed to make it through right from the house so there was no sense in me heading to the airport and sit there for hours waiting for the weather. When the clouds started to break up and I saw a bunch of holes I could make it through near the mountains south of the valley I started heading to the airport. I knew that by the time I was done with my preflight and fueling, the visibility and cloud cover would be even better.

When I got to the airport and was waiting for fuel I went into the pilots lounge to check the weather one more time on the computers there. I was one of the few guys who hadn’t downloaded the brand new Foreflight app back then. I think as a utility guy I am usually one of the last ones to receive any new technology in the aircraft and I believe most of us are somewhat resistant to new technology. Otherwise we wouldn’t be flying 50+ year old aircraft, right?!

But in the pilots lounge there were a bunch of corporate guys flying fancy new twin engine helicopters. We were chatting and discovered we were pretty much all headed in the same direction this afternoon. I said “Well, gentlemen, I’ll see you all on the next convention. I’m off.” They asked me where I was going. I responded that I was taking off now to fly to LA. Three of them jumped up with their iPad in hand and said “Wait! You can’t go yet! Look at the weather! It’s still pretty marginal!” I looked at their iPad and it showed all the fancy clouds and rain drops and all the stuff we’re so used to looking at nowadays. “That’s neat, thanks! I’m still gonna go.” “What makes you think you can make it through there?” the question came with a finger pointed at the dark green blotches. I looked out the window and pointed at the huge break in the clouds and said “It’s clearing up. Check out this huge break in the clouds south of us. I know the terrain. If I follow the freeway I’ll be way clear of any weather and further south it gets better according to your maps.”

It turned out that literally nobody in this room thought of looking out the window. Everybody was sitting around, staring at their apps watching for a change in the weather. It was an eye opener for everyone. Sometimes we rely on technology so much, we forget the very basics …

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5 comments on “Crappy weather
  1. Johsua says:

    I had one of those experiences the other day. I was checking out a renter in a new airplane with an amazing *Garmin 430W* GPS. In the interest of using a more suitable runway we where where headed a full 13nm on runway heading. So he plugged it into the GPS and started making his position reports. One we got to a five mile 45 entry I couldn’t take it anymore and had him look out the window. I kid you not, where flying directly over midfield.

    The basics do get neglected.

  2. Quill says:

    When learning to fly taildraggers a few years ago, I showed up at the flight school ready to fly, anticipating doing touch-and-gos in the pattern. My instructor (a crotchety old cigar-smoking corporate pilot) asked me if I had checked weather. I poked my head out the door and said “Clear. Calm. Hot. Let’s fly.” The instructor was hoping I would consult FlightService or ADDS, but the guy at the front desk responded with “You said that like a taildragger pilot!”

  3. Fotojunky says:

    No app like the window app to check current wheather.
    To check local weather in the next hour or so, keep an eye on the sailplane people. They are generaly better at predicting weather then any service I ever checked.

  4. Captain_Dunsel says:

    Sometimes, though, looking out the window will fool you. A classic example is expecting clearing in the Anchorage/Elmendorf AFB area. Looking to the west, clear skies are visible…but since the wind is from the west, the upslope clouds along the Chugach mountains simply won’t dissipate. Plenty of pilots would come into the base weather station and demand we change the forecast because they could see the blue skies, but we knew the clouds wouldn’t lift until the wind direction shifted. Not easy, especially when you’re a mere 2nd lieutenant and the insistent pilot is a full-bird colonel!


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