Around the Airport

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Weather or Not

A local farmer was here a few days ago to cut our hay. While on his way in he stopped to talk. That’s when the subject of the forecast came up. He was about to cut hay but the forecast for the next day was predicting rain and according to him his wife would not be happy if she knew he was doing so.
If you’ve never been involved with the hay cutting process, from the time you cut it to the time you bale it, you want it to be drying. Rain is not good. Yet, when our friendly local farmer finished his prediction about what his wife would do to him, he said, “Oh well, they always say it’s going to rain”. Three days later he bailed it having had no trace of rain.
This conversation led to the discussion about productivity and accurate weather forecasts. The farmer’s implication was that if we waited for a perfect forecast, we’d never get anything done. Therefore, I wonder, is it possible modern weather prediction actually decreases productivity? Here’s how; people see a chance rain in the forecast then they put off work that could be done, or at least partially done, on a day with a better forecast? I think there’s a pretty good chance this is much more prevalent that we know.
So how does this relate to aviation?
I have long lamented all the reasons people have today for not flying. The one that gets me more than any is the weather. I may be old fashioned but I remember when pilots were taught the difference between a cirrus cloud and a tornado. Remember when pilots could distinguish hail from dandelion seeds floating through the air of a warm spring day? What happened to our aviators?
I’ll tell you what I think happened. Our pilot group fell hook, line, and sinker for the notion of safety and planning. Yeah, I said it; safety and planning is killing aviation and our alphabet groups aren’t helping. In fact, they are the pushers who move this stuff into the shady neighborhoods of aviation where spineless pilots wear helmets when they bike and eagerly inject this garbage into their bloodstream for a quick excuse not to fly.
Delivered directly to the nervous system via light waves, iPads, smart phones, and even TVs are killing aviation with the notion they are making it easier. Don’t believe me? How many people do you think would fly from the East Coast to the West Coast without a GPS? Very few today would yet there was a time when even kids did it. Yep, flying is expensive yet nobody can live without their pricey gadgets that could easily be replaced with fifteen dollar charts.
I know what you’re thinking; live weather radar helps. And you know what, you’d be right if people knew how to read it and use it to fly instead of not to. I’ll give you a good example.
See the red dot in the middle of this radar picture above? The pin is on Louisville. Northeast of there you will see a vertical band of two shades of green surrounded by a thin blue outline. Immediately to the right of that, where the Ohio River runs North/South, is where Lee Bottom is located. What kind of weather do you think that is?
The next photo was taken immediately after the radar screen shot. It is an actual image of what that weather radar screen shot looked like from the ground. As you can see, or I hope you can, the green blob from the radar is actually an area best described as a high altitude area of high humidity. This was the same day the farmer cut his hay and it never rained.
If you had been east of Lee Bottom wanting to go west, would you have done so?
Ultimately, today’s weather technology is so good it's quite possibly too good. For as long as most of us can remember, rain or weather was displayed as green. Now though green, and several shades of it, most often represent a level of moisture that at one time could not be detected by weather devices. Back then pilots looked to the sky, observed the color, felt the moisture, read the thermometer, and went flying. Today, they turn on some gadget, see green, and stay home.
What do these people do with their spare time? They read books about the freedom, romanticism, and daring of flight.

1 comment:

NormC said...

I get that point and have to admit that for some time that I avoided flying based on such weather maps. But two good pilot friends said to me after cancelling a couple of flights to "go fly up to it.". " Go look at it. If you don't like it, turn around or have a plan to go somewhere else."
I did. And since, I use that technology to fly rather than not.