Weather Restricted (Still)

We were so hopeful and excited about flying to Chicago! I had paper maps, a departure, fuel stops, runway information, ground transit- it was planned, all systems go except- EXCEPT- the weather got in the way. AGAIN!

(I cannot wait to be instrument rated. Stay tuned, I’m working on it.)

So what happened? you ask.

We did our weather research days in advance like good pilots. By Tuesday, we were watching weather forecasts for the cities between here and there. Several weather forecasting sites all agreed that there would be storms across the Central part of the U.S. on Friday, and several sources agreed on storms the Sunday we wanted to return. We also saw forecasts for overcast skies across large portions of our route.

We decided not to chance it and bought airline tickets instead.

Friday, we departed Southwest Airlines out of Dallas Lovefield under dark, low clouds. I say that to make myself feel better. Really, we probably could have flown ourselves East under the clouds, or between layers, to the overcast shelf. After the shelf, we would have been in the clear for a bit, then we would have been stuck on top for much of the Central Plains flight.

Leaving Dallas

What aviation nerds do during commercial flights.

It might have worked out! Or, it might have ended in disaster. What if we had issues stuck on top? There was a lot of turbulence (at airliner flight levels) that might have also been at lower altitudes. Would we have been tossed around?

Arriving into St. Louis, the clouds were breaking up and I could see ground well before we went through the cloud layer. Some time after St. Louis, the clouds cleared up and was all clear into Chicago. We totally might have made it.

Somewhere between St. Louis & Chicago

We had a most excellent time in Chicago!

Sunday morning, we woke up early to catch our flight. There were low scattered clouds about 1000 feet off the ground that disappeared well before our scheduled flight. Same as last time, there was no lack of overcast clouds to trap VFR pilots on top. This time though, we arrived in Kansas City, MO to more scattered than broken, meaning there were patches of visibility between clouds, meaning we totally might have made it. Departing Kansas City then into Dallas, clouds began to break up and clump into fluffy compact sky pillows.

Enroute to Kansas City, MO

Over Kansas City
Back at Dallas

The clouds looked ominous but there was no rain and little wind. Totally. Could. Have. Flown. That.

But here’s the thing. It would have been a huge risk as VFR pilots. There would have been long stretches of flying on top with no way to get down without breaking the law and possibly bumping into something. And there was no way to know that at the time we flew into St. Louis and Kansas City that there would have been enough of a break between clouds to get down. It could have been solid overcast, but it happened to break up. Weather forecasting has gotten much better in recent years, but it has a long way to go before pilots can reliably predict the when and where on clouds.

So this blog post is about me whining that I could have flown but chickened out after forecasts for storms seemed so sure. This is not a story about an accident or incident that I regret. Hopefully that flight doesn’t happen for a very long time, if ever at all!




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