Flight Training - January 2015 - 22

FLYING CARPET

By Greg Brown

PLUS View the slideshow.

TENNIS TEAMMATES (left to right ) Jean
Brown, Jana Perpich, and Jenny Garcia at
Albuquerque's Double Eagle II Airport.
Old Acoma, "Sky City," a 1,000-year-old
mesa-top Native American pueblo
(opposite page).

TENNIS TIME AGAIN

THE POWER OF WISHFUL THINKING

E

very aviator knows the pain of stressing about weather before
important aerial journeys. It's become tradition for me to fly
Jean to tennis regionals when her team wins their conference.
Fortunately, the playoffs occur in late spring and early fall when
good flying weather generally dominates the Southwest.
Jean's team was particularly strong this
year, so with each successive win she'd
more enthusiastically ask, "You will fly us
to Albuquerque if we qualify, right?" Each
time I assured her that nothing in my universe could possibly be more important.
Accordingly she solicited fellow players
to join us, collected their weights, briefed
them on baggage limits, and arranged
for driving teammates to accommodate
overflow gear. When Jean's team indeed
made the cut, we began casually watching
the weather.
You may be surprised to learn that
hurricanes, or at least their remnants,
occasionally visit sunny Arizona. In the
past month two of them, Marie and Norbert, had arrived from Mexico's Pacific
coast, dropping precipitation, including
the largest daily rainfall ever recorded in
normally bone-dry Phoenix. Following
two such rare occurrences in one season, I
never imagined we'd see more.

22 /

FLIGHTTRAINING.AOPA.ORG

But a week before Jean's regionals, Hurricane Odile steered our way from Baja
California. Jean and I watched in disbelief
as local meteorologist Lee Born projected
the storm's track northeastward through
Arizona and New Mexico. "This could
be another major precipitation event," he
said, "with a high likelihood we'll benefit
by more rain." Jean and I saw a disrupted
tennis trip in the colorful weather blob
projected to engulf the two states.
By Flying Carpet, Albuquerque is an
easy two hours from Flagstaff, meaning I
could deliver Jean and fellow player Jana
Perpich fresh for play Thursday morning.
Flying would return them and teammate
Jenny Garcia home by midday Sunday,
in time to recuperate before starting the
workweek. As Jean observed, "The tournament's grueling enough without driving
five hours each way!" Besides, I treasure
any opportunity to fulfill Jean's personal
missions in the airplane she helps support.

"That storm will probably dissipate
before getting here," she offered, "or
change speed, or course." Clearly that was
wishful thinking. Although now downgraded to a tropical storm, Odile barreled
inexorably toward us. Even as it further
weakened to a tropical depression, torrential rains were likely.
"But we could fly on instruments,
right?" said Jean. That was indeed feasible,
providing the freezing level exceeded
minimum instrument altitudes of 11,000 to
12,000 feet along the mountainous route.
Strong winds also could be hazardous,
especially downwind of New Mexico's
11,305-foot Mount Taylor.
Each day the storm advanced closer,
without changing course or potency. Two
days before our planned departure, my
friend Shari Meyer wrote from Northern
California.
"Rarely must I cancel a flight due to
weather," she said. "Ugh! Stupid Odile has
ruined my plans to pick up my husband
Ken in Arizona tomorrow." That got even
Jean's attention, because Shari and Ken
fly a highly capable Eclipse jet. With that,
Jean and Jana finally acknowledged the
likelihood of driving. Fortunately, we
could postpone the final decision until
departure morning.
Throughout Wednesday I monitored
the weather. To our slight encouragement, the storm appeared to be steering
slightly south of the expected track.
"We'll be lucky to get an inch of rain,"
Lee Born announced disappointedly.


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Flight Training - January 2015

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Flight Training - January 2015

Contents
Flight Training - January 2015 - Cover1
Flight Training - January 2015 - Cover2
Flight Training - January 2015 - Contents
Flight Training - January 2015 - 2
Flight Training - January 2015 - 3
Flight Training - January 2015 - 4
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