Editor's Log

August 2000 Issue

The Battle Within

Whether you go or stay, examine the facts, please

Sometimes you recognize get-home-itis when you’ve got it. At that point, you have to step back and make sure you’re making the right decision because the facts support it, rather than because your emotions have taken hold.

During a recent weather briefing for a flight from Wilmington, N.C., to Orlando, the disease hit me like a wave crashing over the bow of a boat. Sunset was near and a line of strong thunderstorms was moving in from the west. From the looks of the radar in the FBO and the view out the window, I estimated we had about 20 minutes to get off the ground or we’d be stranded overnight.

We were prepared to stay, but it had been a long day for the kids and I knew they’d sleep the whole way if we left right away. If we left in the morning, they’d be fresh and rested and ready for anything other than sitting in the cabin of the Lance for three hours.

The briefer painted a pessimistic picture of the route home. Thunderstorms were predicted inland in South Carolina and Georgia. Central Florida had current thunderstorm activity showing on the radar. As I continued my briefing, his tone made it clear he thought I should abort the trip. When I filed my IFR flight plan, the disapproval in his voice was noticeable.

I recognized my eagerness to depart, but when I stepped back and looked at the dynamics of the flight, it didn’t seem all that bad. The question I had to ask was whether I was merely rationalizing my decision to go.

Although the pressure was building to get the prop turning, I took a few moments to think about what was happening. The storms were moving in, but our point of departure was near the south end of the line. If we could get out before they arrived, we’d easily be out of their reach.

The same front was forecast to give birth to storms in South Carolina and Georgia, but nothing had erupted yet and those forecasts were inland; we’d be flying along the coast. Our route kept us a few miles offshore most of the way, where the air would not be as unstable.

In central Florida, the existing storms were the isolated late-afternoon variety that occur almost every day, and I knew they’d dissipate by the time we arrived at about 10:30 p.m. If they didn’t I was confident I’d be able to pick my way through them with the help of the Stormscope.

The routing was simple: direct Savannah, direct Orlando. There was no traffic at the field and I was immediately cleared to take off and climb to altitude. We watched a beautiful sunset over the clouds as the towering storms moved in slowly behind us and to the west.

I suppose the briefer thought he was doing me a favor by cautioning me repeatedly about the weather, but I also thought – then and now – that he was being overly conservative and that I made the right call. There was enough margin that even if the weather was worse than forecast I still had plenty of options – including flying to the Bahamas and waiting it out. Come to think of it, that’s probably the toughest call I made all day.

-Ken Ibold