Editor’s Briefing: From Stratus To Cumulus

Editor’s Briefing: From Stratus To Cumulus

As the season of spring settles in across the upper portion of the U.S., long after it awakened in the southern tier of states, pilots find themselves plowing through the buildups of cumulus clouds. After a winter of popping up through layers of smooth stratus, we suddenly encounter a return to atmospheric lifting, dealing with clouds energized with a desire to grow and growl.

This causes a shift in our thinking, corresponding to the season. Those of us with altitude capability reach for a Flight Level that can, at least, bring us visibility to dodge the monster buildups. In the mid-levels, we’ll plunge in and out, and maybe deviate to evade the dark spots. And if we are restricted to breathing all-natural, free-range air without pressurization, we’ll have to play the “on-top or underneath” game, beginning the day above the tops and eventually abandoning the high road to weave through or bounce along under the bases.

Piloting is all about choosing the best flight plan to deal with the conditions, using our aircraft’s capabilities in a safe manner. Our stratus clouds mode of thinking won’t work with cumulus circumstances, and as we fly into spring weather we have to shift our technique. A little popcorn puffball in the morning can become a raging anvil-hatted monster in the afternoon, full of downbursts, rain and hail. No longer can we expect a frontal penetration to be quietly denoted by a wind shift and rightward heading change.

Maybe there’s a parallel here with the politics of an election year. As things heat up in the crucial months leading to the vote, there’s a lot of energy going into the air, with turbulent promises pushing the vapor skyward into a cumulus of rhetoric. We’re past the stratus season now, when candidates cruised along in the smoothness of ambivalence, subtly occupying the middle region between layers, hoping for a pilot’s-discretion clearance as they campaigned. Taking a stand, by comparison, generates the friction of up-and-down currents, and the atmosphere of the electorate can turn ugly.

Can we, as a nation and as voters, deal with this confusing turbulence? Oh, sure; just like piloting through changing seasons, we just have to remember how to choose our plan for the future, now that we’re faced with build-ups instead of off-year lethargy. Experienced pilots and voters have seen it before, so we’ll seek council if we’re new to the game, and tighten our belts to ride through, making the best of the situation. We can’t just choose not to participate, any more than we can relinquish the controls of an aircraft in flight. Let us resolve to remember what’s worked in the past, using the best tools we have today, and pick our way through the blustering build-ups. Hopefully, there are clear skies on the other side.

LeRoy Cook

In This Issue:

This month marks Mother’s Day, and we take much pleasure is presenting Captain Kevin Dingman’s tribute to a Pilot’s Mom. If you are fortunate enough to still have your mother with you, let her know you appreciate her support, and perhaps even take her flying. As another poignant tale, we’re also featuring Dr. Kevin Ware’s story about his work with the Veterans Airlift Command, and one veteran in particular. Fewer and fewer of us have served in the military, so we frequently need a reminder to express our gratitude by helping a veteran.

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