Many people think former President George W. Bush coined this word. In fact, it was first used by comedian Will Ferrell during a Saturday Night Live episode and later used by the President in jest. I thought about the word early on a June morning as I prepared to be strategic for a return flight from Panama City, FL (KECP) to Dallas (KDAL).
The first picture greeted my alarm and showed a growing mass of thunderstorms north of New Orleans. It was moving northeast, right over my intended flight path. SIGMETS were issued to get my attention.
I roused the group at 6 a.m., fifteen minutes earlier than planned.
The departure forecast for ECP was good with scattered offshore thunderstorms building through the area after our scheduled 8 a.m. launch.
“No, we don’t have time to stop for breakfast today, just eat the muffins and fruit on the countertop,” I urged the family.
We arrived at the airport on time and loaded the bags. I had noticed an intermittent right fuel gauge on the trip down, but as I turned on the battery for this flight, it indicated only slightly less than the left tank. Just to be sure of its contents, I asked the line guy to open the fuel cap so we could see for sure. “I don’t see any fuel,” came his reply. It took 20 gallons to fill it as did the left side.
That extra 40 gallons would give me some peace of mind if I had to do some extensive detouring along the way home.
Once airborne, the challenge began. As shown in the second picture, the weather had indeed moved directly over my route. That’s where the great features of the G1000 and ForeFlight came into play. Individual cells were indicating tops of FL340 with lightning.
“Jax center, three nine six delta mike would like direct Meridian for weather,” I said. “Cleared direct Meridian and deviations left or right approved. Advise when direct Dallas Love,” came the answer.
At FL240 in cloud, I had a true airspeed of 260 knots, burning 237 pounds per side. For possible icing, I had everything warmed up: engine inlet, windshield heat, and prop heat along with the standard items. I took a 20 degree right turn to keep things smooth. We never accumulated any ice, and even the passengers remained asleep.
“Atlanta center, Southwest one needs twenty left to avoid a cell over Meridian.” “That’s approved Southwest one and direct ECP when able,” came the immediate reply.
For the next 100 miles or so, we were enveloped in clouds. This from a system that had dumped over five inches of rain in Dallas the day before. I reflected on how many flights I made 40 years ago, where my only weather information was from listening to a flight service guy or lady on a crowded frequency. Or perhaps asking another pilot what the ride was like on 123.45.
We’ve come a long way, baby.