Weather Flying

Late September iPhone 056

This fog forms in minutes and can disappear as fast–it is quite typical of the Maine coast

I love the challenge of weather flying.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the sunny days as much as the next guy but it can get a bit repetitive on your thirty-second leg of the day; especially during the few minutes of cruise flight we get between islands when you’re up high (relatively speaking) and there is nothing to do but watch the engine gauges and the grey Atlantic from three thousand feet.  Granted it’s important to monitor the health of the engine, but it’s not the same focus I have when I’m down low trying to find a path around the fog or showers while avoiding obstacles and keeping the flight legal–all of that together is what keeps things interesting and challenging.  That intensity is what I thrive on and desire.  If I wanted to cruise along from my high perch and turn on the autopilot to relax, I would have sought a job with Delta.

I grew up flying in Maine and after thirty plus years of aviating here and elsewhere I am quite familiar with the weather patterns of my home state, so oftentimes I know what to expect.  This in no way makes me an expert on the weather nor am I impervious to complacency.  So with this in mind I most definitely have a “plan B” up my sleeve and many times a “plan C” in order to safely conduct a flight.  Weather is always a leading cause of accidents in aviation; for that matter it is a leading cause of fatal accidents–which makes it even more ominous.

In comparison, I found while flying in southeast Alaska that the weather was very similar with what I was used to in Maine only with a significantly different topography.  Thankfully each area allows you to fly over the ocean in many locations, this is important when dealing with low ceilings and/or visibility because one could potentially fly nearly down to the ocean’s surface in an emergency without much fear of hitting an obstacle.

I sometimes get asked why I don’t have pictures of the really bad weather.  Well, I’m sorta busy flying the plane and trying not to scare the devil out of my passengers (this can be an art itself and worthy of a chapter in a book!) so the really bad weather typically gets my undivided attention.  Every so often I do get a picture of some nasty weather I’m flying through but much of the time they are not the best photos anyway.  Think about driving to work in the fog and rain and taking pictures as you motor down the highway.  Not only dangerous, it would also make for some pretty boring or downright ugly pictures.

Fairly often I see before me a scene that truly tugs at my emotions and am able to safely get a picture, the photo above was one of those times.  This particular day the weather wasn’t bad really as long as the airstrip wasn’t in the fog, it just made things interesting and also provided some beautiful photos given the wind made the fog appear to “flow” like a liquid around obstacles on the waters surface.  Another important point I’d like to make is I don’t take photos with passengers on the plane so there are times I just stare at an awe inspiring scene and enjoy it for what it is.  These are the times I wish I could just blink my eyes as though they are a shutter on a camera and have my mind act as the memory card–so I could share the picture, the spirit, the feeling of the beauty I’m seeing with all of you.

Author: Shawn R Michaud

I've flown airplanes since I was a teenager and retired from the United States Navy after over 24 years of service. Now I fly commercially in addition to flying my Super Cub for fun.

2 thoughts on “Weather Flying”

  1. For those that don’t pilot an airplane, it’s so nice to share your experience(s). I think you should do a piece on some of your passengers, as I know you’ve ferried a vet and her entourage to islands!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know what…you’re right! I should write about some of the interesting people that are flying with me. Thanks for the advice, that’s precisely what I’m looking for (along with criticism). Check out Jonathan…it’s about one of my passengers that I flew fairly frequently but the name was changed to protect the innocent–me! 🙂

      Like

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