We’d cleared a nasty line of thunderstorms departing Flagstaff, surmounted a vivid rainbow, and now cruised cumulus-flecked skies toward Montrose, Colorado.
Although datalink weather suggested clear sailing the rest of the way, I’d previously learned the hard way that an empty weather screen doesn’t necessarily equal “no thunderstorms.” After an unknown-to-anyone squall line turned us around halfway to Montrose last year, I’d discovered the large weather-radar gap spanning the Four Corners area due to lack of antennae.
We’d been so traumatized by last year’s “U-Turn” and Jean’s subsequent 16-hour round-trip drive, that she’d investigated flying airlines this year instead. But between such remote locations, general aviation can indeed save money. Yes, Flying Carpet fuel would cost $4-500 to drop and retrieve Jean and her mother, but far less convenient Phoenix-to-Grand Junction airline tickets priced out at $750 apiece.
Fortunately, I’d learned from last year’s misadventure. This time I previewed online weather-radar coverage maps, and ADS-B ground-station coverage from which we’d receive weather and traffic data. (Sure enough, there’s an ADS-B gap, too.) I loaded lots of fuel for the remote route, allowing hundreds of miles’ diversion in case of unforecast weather.
Given minimal radar coverage, I monitored satellite imagery for telltale cloud buildups. And along with gathering weather for the few airports within 100 miles of our route, I scanned non-aviation station reports for the tiny Native American communities passing under our wings. Even “sunny,” “cloudy,” and “thunderstorm,” reports are better than nothing.
Even then, every distant shadow raised the specter of last year’s lurking weather…
**Read Greg’s entire column, “SEA OF GOLD“**
Top Photo: “‘Flaming’ autumn aspens carpet Colorado’s Uncampaghre Plateau.” (See my “Flaming Autumn Aspens” Fine Art Metal Print) Lower Photo: “Greeted by a downpour upon returning home.” SEE MORE PHOTOS!
(This column first appeared in AOPA Flight Training magazine.)
©2017 Gregory N. Brown
If you enjoyed this story, you’ll love Greg’s book, Flying Carpet: The Soul of an Airplane. Autographed copies available!