Monday, October 27, 2008

Lightning Reflexes

I'm supposed to head north tonight, but one nav light (the red one, on my left wingtip) is burned out and I'm waiting for someone who may be able to sell me a spare bulb. I check the weather while I'm waiting. I have clear skies ahead, but there are thunderstorms approaching from the southwest. I haven't seen the radar image myself, because I don't have internet access here. I've just talked to a briefer who described them. The storms are moving northeast at 15 kts, and the last radar image has them 25 nm away. So I had better be ready to go in an hour. I can already see lightning flashing to the south, but even though I am outdoors I can't hear the thunder, so it must be a good ways off.

Soon the lightning flashes creep around me, visible to the south and west, really lighting up the sky, even though they still aren't close enough for me to hear the thunder. That's weird. Sometimes I see vertical cloud to ground strikes, sometimes horizontal cloud to cloud discharges, and sometimes there's a sheet of undifferentiated light illuminating the countryside. It's quite the storm.

The guy who might have the bulbs comes by with his camera, to take pictures of the lightning, then goes to the stores and finds lightbulbs with the correct part number. We get two bulbs so as to have a spare for next time, but by the time it's installed and I do a runup I decide the storms are too close. If it were daylight I'd do it, as I could see clearly what I wasn't flying into, but I admit my possible overcaution with, "You know what they say about old pilots and bold pilots." No one argues.

Early next morning on the drive to the airport we pass utility crews repairing power lines. I start the engines and have made it to the run-up area talking to "Villeneuve Traffic" before the tower opens. As is usual in this situation, the after-hours "Traffic" frequency is the same as the tower frequency. I know the controllers are probably in there, listening already, so I note in my transmission that I am monitoring the Ground frequency as well. I make it all the way to the run-up area before the tower broadcasts words to the effect of, "Villeneuve Tower is now open. All aircraft in the control zone, all ground vehicles, say your position." I'll bet you a nickel the controller is looking straight at me as he says it. I think I'm the only one in the zone and I taxied right by him. He has to know where I am.

I dutifully report call sign and type, in the runway 26 run up area, VFR to my destination on a company note. When my engines are warm and all systems check out I call ready. He clears me for takeoff, and to make the necessary turn after departure. The day is smooth and calm, clear to the south with layers thickening to the north. I slip under a layer of low cloud to land where I'm needed next, before I'm actually needed.

5 comments:

Ed said...

He knew where you were but his tape recorder didn't.

Sarah said...

Thunderstorms at night? Sounds like a good idea to wait until the morning, even though all that lightning would provide lots of illumination. Thunderstorms scare me even when I can see them. I gather you don't have fancy toys like radar or even stormscope, XM wx..

What is " on a company note "?

Aviatrix said...

An aircraft travelling to a destination more than 25 nm away must have either filed a flight plan with Nav Canada, or given a flight itinerary to a responsible person who will report to Nav Canada if you don't turn up as scheduled. For some reason when you're part of a commercial operation and your company is the one that has your flight itinerary, that's called "on a company note." It compares with "on a VFR flight plan."

phil said...

nice! that's a relaxing story.

rockandrollwillneverdie said...

That Skyvan deserves to be the star attraction as a jump plane in some really baaad 'B' movie about sky-diving and surfing and rock 'n roll... probably involving gratuitous nudity ...