Wednesday, August 3, 2016


We were all at the FBO. The three of us; I was the pilot, with my my two non-pilot college friends. They wanted to go flying and it didn't matter what the weather was. Even after mentioning that it was going to be Instrument conditions, they remain unfazed. “we want to see what it feels like in the clouds in a small aircraft!” is what both grown men chimed simultaneously.

On the other hand there were these beautiful relatively still looking clouds overhead at around 2000 feet with a soft underbelly undulating to the rigors of the Appalachian mountain waves currents. The atmospheric hue was a crisp grey with a bit of a yellowish hue thrown in.

“A bit of a yellowish hue?” My mind raced back many years earlier. I had not quite hit the teens then and there we were the three friends who had promised to remain friends forever, now lost to each other in the sea of human life’s tumult. But there in the Raspberry tree bearing white raspberries in the bushels, we sat crushing the juice out of nature one raspberry at a time. Meanwhile, the yellowish hue deepened a bit, the colors intensified and just as smartly the first raindrop fell. We chose to ignore it and soon drenched in a deluge we sought shelter in the nearby friend's home. The rain it poured and poured till the streets couldn't take it anymore and let go of onrushing waves and waves of water turning gardens and lawns into shallow swimming pools.

It was the same color this day! I mentioned the weather issues and the two daredevils wanted nothing to do with that. Their reaction against my weather reading judgment was; “Dont be a Chump!” “Chicken, “ then there was the “Chicken wing walk around” and a litany of other disparagements that good friends are wont to do. So I suggested that we go have an early lunch and if the weather truly was not changing, then we could continue with our plans. They agreed as long as I paid for the lunch.

Entering the diner, I felt a raindrop on my head. Soon we were seated and I pulled out my smartphone and checked the weather. There were isolated green and yellow spots of radar images suggesting a few scattered cells in the area and one tiny green one overhead. I checked the k-index ("vertical temperature lapse rate, moisture content of the lower atmosphere, and the vertical extent of the moist layer.” - Mathematically speaking: K-INDEX K = (T850 - T500) + Td850 - (T700 - Td700) The result was not heartening to me; The K Index was listed at 36. (K values +20 indicate some potential for air mass thunderstorms. K values +40 indicate almost 100% chance for air mass thunderstorms). I quietly ordered my lunch and launched on a long conversation about other things.

No sooner had the waiter brought our food, we heard a distinct crackle of thunder and a bright light. Ah, I thought, the tiny green cell had reached out for help from the devil’s worksop. The momentary lapse in the conversation was proceeded with a call for dessert and coffee. But the coffee never came. The water broke and the heavens poured down their heavy weight of moisture into a sheet of blur outside the window. The lights in the dinner flickered and then darkness descended for us so we could see nature’s display outside. The torrents continued, the lightening flashes and the constant rumble interspersed with a loud bark from nature’s displeasure. We paid out the handwritten bill presented to us and thought about escape strategies from the diner towards our vehicles.

That we didn’t fly that day, was good thing. The tiny green blobs predictably had grown over the hour we had sat in the diner and merged together with others to create a “train effect,’ that left us helplessly running for our vehicles when we thought the rain was letting down a bit. But it didn't. Not at all!

Some summer days, it just is better sitting in a hanger, a diner or at home and wishing we were flying. That was certainly one of those days.

I often question had I not had the childhood experience, would I have launched in the air given the two major distractions mixed with insinuations of being a wimp? Given the questionable weather forecast of thunderstorm after 8 pm? I cant say. But I am glad, for the experience, to experience another one in complete ground safety.

In these lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, when humidity is in the 60%, your shirt is sticking to your skin and the temperatures are hovering around the high eighties or higher, check the K-Index, it might save your life.

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