“Damn,” I mutter under my breath as I jump down off the wing. It’s the weather. Well, more correctly, the weather forecast. On my iPhone a green and blue tidal wave: Air Sports Net’s wind forecast for tomorrow morning. The Plane Plan was to test-fly Tess, but thanks to the weather, it doesn’t look good for the home team.
And it isn’t just Air Sports Net that has a dim view of the sky. Weather Underground, Dark Sky, and the Garmin Pilot MOS—Model Output Statistics—are all in agreement. A trinity plus one says the morning wind is unfit for flying in general, much less for a test flight.
Four weather sources? Isn’t that, like, excessive? Well, the truth is that we pilots are slaves to the weather. After all, we go to work in the sky, the weather’s home turf, so smart pilots do their best to discover what kind of mood the weather going to be in before we get there. Hey, good weather means good flying, while bad weather means bad flying—or more frequently, no flying at all. Which is why a bad weather forecast usually rates a “damn” in my book.
And I’ve been saying “damn” a lot lately.
Or a lot more than I used to, it seems to me. My home state is supposedly blessed with 310 days of sunshine a year, and in past years it was a rare thing when weather scrubbed a local flight. Not to say we don’t have our weather challenges here in New Mexico. We have a lot of rugged terrain and afternoon winds are common. These winds churn and tumble across the landscape, resulting in turbulent skies that make feather-weight planes like Tess good training grounds for future bull-riding rodeo stars.
But this year… this year is different. Howling winds early in the morning. Rain and snow. Poor visibility. Low ceilings. Fog! Fog in arid New Mexico! Who ever heard of such a thing? I’ve seen New Mexico fog maybe twice in three decades prior to this year. Now, it’s like London in Sherlock Holmes’ day.
But it’s not just New Mexico weather. As a family, we catch ABC’s World News Tonight with David Muir to see what’s happening over the horizon, and to set a good example for Rio about the importance of being an informed citizen. And lately I’ve noticed that the weather is a big story. Occasionally the lead story, and commonly “above the fold” before the first commercial break.
Nearly every night.
That didn’t used to happen. Is the weather changing, or is the public’s focus on it changing? I’m not sure. But this damn weather is affecting more than my personal flying. Case in point: At the end of last year my plane friend Lisa needed about six or eight lessons to finish up her ticket, so she decided that the best solution was to fly every single day during her college’s Christmas vacation. And although quite pricey, she also decided to hangar her plane Warbler in Santa Fe to be close to her instructor to simplify travel logistics.
I think she got to fly twice over the normally cool, sunny break. The rest of the days were unflyable.
Naturally, being tough and tenacious, Lisa rallied and figured, fine: I’ll keep the plane over there a little longer and get the flights done on weekends. But then each Friday evening I watched David Muir and his team display colorful radar images of yet another weekend storm set to sweep over the state. Weekend after weekend, storm systems rolled in and over us, and before we could take a breath, roll up our sleeves, and soak up some vitamin D, the next storm was set to pounce upon us.
Warbler is still in Santa Fe, three full months of hangar rent later.
And come to think of it, it’s not just the weekend weather. Rio’s Monday lessons have been weathered out so many times he’s taken to calling himself a Rusty Pilot.
Of course, another complication when it comes to weather is that weather forecasts are wrong as often as they are right. Take today for instance. This morning, I’m writing instead of flying—not a bad alternative, but never my first choice. Why? Because those four forecasts sixteen hours ago led me to believe that flying this morning would be a bad idea, so I scrubbed Tessie’s scheduled test flight.
The winds this morning over in Santa Fe were forecast to be 20 something gusting to 30 something from dawn on. It’s now three hours after sunrise and looking at one of my weather apps, right now there’s a three mile an hour wind (unlike most pilots, I disdain knots). Barely enough to rumple the wind socks at Santa Fe. I could have been making serious progress toward getting my baby back in the air and off to the races again.
Yeah. All four forecasts were wrong. And yes, I’m annoyed.
Damn weather forecasts.
And looking forward, the next three days are forecast to have bad weather.