Let’s be honest. Most of us are pretty darn good at running a business. Or a law office. Or a medical practice. But we are all significantly challenged every time we get in an airplane. Especially when poor weather is involved along with a perceived “need to get there.”
Such was the case on October 24, the arrival day for the annual Citation Jet Pilots convention. This event was special in two ways. It was our tenth meeting, a real celebration with well over 100 jets expected. And it was the first time in our history that weather was a real factor. A tropical storm poured substantial moisture into south Texas and our convention city, San Antonio. And because many of our members would be arriving from all across the United States, Canada, and Mexico, planning for an alternate was challenging.
The night before departure, San Antonio was forecast to have 2-mile visibility with rain, fog, and ceilings of 400 overcast. Austin, 60 miles away, the same. Waco, 100 miles up the road, no good. I had to use Dallas, my departure city, as a legal alternate.
At 9 a.m. on departure day, however, things looked better. As we left KADS (Addison), the SAT weather was: 04005KT 8SM -RA SCT023 BKN045 OVC130
But the original forecast was still valid. Fat with fuel, I was prepared for the worst for our 53-minute flight at FL 270.
My, how quickly things can change.
“San Antonio information Tango. Wind zero-five-zero at three. Visibility one mile. Light rain. Ceiling six hundred overcast. RVR runway one three right, five thousand. Altimeter three zero zero four. Expect ILS one three right. Advise you have information Tango.”
In the descent, we picked up light icing, and I made the first PIREP of the day. As we were vectored for the approach in light rain and a smooth ride, my wife Patty began looking for ground contact. Lower and lower we descended on the ILS. At 600 above minimums, no joy. Then 500, then 400. I placed my finger on the go-around button and prepared for the missed approach. Suddenly, at 100 above, the approach lights burst into view and the wet runway appeared. My antiskid activated twice as we slowed to make the turn-off.
We taxied into a dreary, quiet, Million Air ramp.
Now, safely on the ground, we began to help others with the latest weather updates. Members from around the country exchanged information on our website. Richard, from Nebraska, couldn’t find a legal alternate without making an additional fuel stop. Several arriving from the Northwest had to make two.
Moderate rain and low ceilings continued all day.
Marc Dulude, CJP chairman, broke out 50 feet above minimums in his CJ3+. Former astronaut Charlie Precourt, arriving in his CJ1+, diverted for fuel after arrivals began to hold for traffic saturation. Everyone was challenged in some way. Some decided to delay their departure and depart the next day in beautiful clear skies.
The great thing is that everyone was supported in their decision. And in the end, we all made the right choices.