Knowledge is power
For pilots, knowledge is power. Today’s broad aviation weather access contributes immeasurably to flight safety by allowing us to anticipate and plan for what lies ahead. Without it, we return to the dark ages of flying.
Recently Jean proposed picking up her mother Marge in Phoenix, and from there visiting her brother in Montrose, Colorado. Phoenix to Montrose is a long flight for the uninitiated— 3½ hours through often-turbulent desert skies. What’s more, Marge is in her eighties and limited in mobility. Most any precautionary landing site along this remote route would lack people, water, or shade, with help potentially hours away. Oh, and another brother was flying in from Chicago, making the schedule immutable. So as much as I love piloting, I suggested dropping Jean in Phoenix, where she and Marge could hop a 1-hour commercial flight instead.
“Mom says she’d rather go by Flying Carpet than airlines,” Jean answered with finality, but she did compromise. After retrieving Marge in Phoenix she suggested we overnight in Flagstaff before proceeding, thereby shortening our Montrose flight by an hour. Although helpful, that didn’t relieve my concerns. But at least Jean and Marge had made an informed decision.
Pilots outside the intermountain west may not easily picture a 275nm route with virtually no attended airports, minimal weather reporting, limited ATC radar and voice communications, marginal to non-existent weather radar coverage*, and 14,000-foot peaks surrounding the destination…
**READ THIS MONTH’S ENTIRE COLUMN, “U-TURN.”**
Photo: A ridge-top “sucker hole” materializes under a line of thunderstorms near Kayenta, Arizona.
(This column first appeared in AOPA Flight Training magazine.)
* Check out the NEXRAD weather radar national coverage map. NE Arizona to SW Colorado features one of the biggest weather radar coverage gaps in the country.
©2016 Gregory N.Brown
If you enjoyed this story, you’ll love Greg’s book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane. Autographed copies available!