All Weather Is Local
Last week, I shared the story of Larry letting himself get caught below the weather and crashing a company plane into the frozen Yukon River in Alaska. This photo I shot as I flew commercial over southern Appalachia while traveling to A3IR outside Phoenix, reminded me of Larry. I believe I owe you a story since I mentioned being in a situation similar to Larry once.
We were flying east through the mountains of Tennessee with a front creating rain between us and a fuel stop on the trip home. See any possible issues with trying to get home through weather? Like Larry, we were following a river to navigate. Ever fly VFR through a frontal area and mountains at the same time? We chose a more northerly route because, before takeoff, weather radar indicated the rain was mostly to the south. This was in the days before the iPad. Unlike him, we were a flight of two multi-pilot helos filled with passengers. We succeeded in avoiding the rain as we enjoyed some of the most fun and beautiful flying you can do. Then it started to snow. Disadvantage: Taking a flight of helos into the goo is a very, very bad idea. Advantage: Two instrument rated pilots and two crewmen per instrument certified aircraft to manage the situation. Turning around was not possible, at this point. We could not climb as a pair or turn inside this ravine. We just slowed down and pressed on. Needless to say, it was a very uncomfortable 30 or 40 minutes before we found the other side of the weather and mountains. It was some of the prettiest weather and mountain views I had ever seen. Think that was influenced by just escaping a bad situation? What we did right: there was no panic and we communicated the plan from the lead aircraft to Dash 2. Just a group of pros dealing with the situation and looking for options. What we could have done better: leveraged technology. The two senior pilots (including me) in the lead aircraft, stuck to VFR nav. It’s what we grew up and were comfortable with, not to mention we kept two sets of eyes on the terrain outside. We found out later, the two more junior pilots in the second aircraft had dialed up an airport in their GPS to give them a better idea of our position. Did you catch that? “We found out later . . .” While GPS would not necessarily have gotten out of this pickle, it would have been nice to know we were further along than I thought. If you are asking why we didn’t just climb out separately and ask for help from ATC, icing was as big concern. If you are asking why we didn’t wait until the next day or later that day, we had other matters I won’t get into here pressing us on. Finally, I’ll say personalities played some role in the flight planning portion. Taken together, this was a flight I will never forget.
What is your most memorable flight?
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