Monday, August 23, 2010

Blinded by the light(ning)

We got a late start, and caught between a high to our west and a low to our east we were fighting headwinds that put the groundspeed below 100. (It doesn't matter what you're in, if the groundspeed is below 100 and you're not sightseeing then you are going slow.)

The first really bad bump was the Center Weather Advisory for an area of developing thunderstorms ahead. I plotted this out; the line was thin, but extended 100 miles either side of our route. I turned toward the soft spot around Dubois (U25). I've flown that valley a gazillion times on fire patrol, so it should be easy, right? Then we'd go over Jackson Hole and then home.

But then there was lightning, and it looked like the storm would pin us onto the mountains north of Dubois. I turned southeast, paralleling the Wind River Range. Where there was no storm there was a too-high mountain, and where there was a low spot there was a storm.

Our destination was reporting 7 miles in light rain, forecasting visbility 3 - 4 miles in smoke from a 6,000 acre 20 miles south. My wife pointed out that an hour of maneuvering around this junk would cost way more than a hotel room and a nice meal.

The end result? We landed. This being the west, there was a pilot I knew in the FBO lounge, working Air Attack on a fire nearby.

"There's no way that airplane is going through that weather," I opined. He agreed.

The best part of the story? This morning, I proved that my family could be airborne at 0700.

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