“Life is Spectacular”

Journal entry, Sunday, June 5, 1994:

Clouds look entirely different from above.
Clouds look entirely different from above.

I departed Ada in a rented Piper Cherokee 160, N5422W, intending to fly to Tulsa International Airport (my friend Robert lived near there at the time) at about 3 p.m., climbing to 3500 feet. It was choppy at that altitude, but I couldn’t get higher for a scattered to broken layer of mixed towering cumulonimbus. Visibility was good and because of the weather, I kept my eyes open for alternate airports. About halfway along, I had to go between two large thunderstorms, but it got clearer as I approached Tulsa.

I navigated mostly by VOR; there are surprisingly few landmarks between Ada and Tulsa.

I could see huge towers of a thunderstorm over Tulsa and began planning my return to Ada or, if necessary, Okmulgee (which was close). I tried to tune in the Tulsa International ATIS, but at first I wasn’t receiving it, then suddenly it came on the air and simply reported, “contact approach for rapidly changing conditions.”

Karen posed for this portrait on Robert's couch; I made this with my Fuji GW670 medium-format camera on Kodak Verichrome Pan Film.
Karen posed for this portrait on Robert’s couch; I made this with my Fuji GW670 medium-format camera on Kodak Verichrome Pan Film.

I listened to approach for a few minutes, and heard them vector an American Airlines MD-80 back to Oklahoma City. I decided to go to Tulsa Riverside, which is on the other side of Tulsa. I called approach and they gave me two VFR vectors for spacing, then handed me off to the RVS tower. They had me fly three miles downwind, which almost put me into the growing thunderstorm to the north. I slowed the aircraft. Finally he called my turn to base and cleared me to land. In a light rain I touched down, perfectly smoothly.

I had dinner with Robert and his (then) girlfriend Karen. During dinner we nicknamed her Snow Pea (which stuck with her). We went back to Robert’s apartment and photographed Karen, who looked very beautiful.

The flight back to Ada was very different from the trip from Ada. From the very moment I took off, it was as smooth as I’ve ever flown. In the safe, warm glow of the red lights of the instrument panel, I climbed to 6500 feet in perfect visibility and started receiving the Ada VOR. I called Fort Worth Center to request flight following, and apparently I was their only low-altitude business for the night, because they never gave me an advisory.

On eight-mile final I canceled radar service and arrived with an even smoother landing.

Life is spectacular.

The towering cumulus cloud is the most dangerous, and the most beautiful, cloud to a pilot.
The towering cumulus cloud is the most dangerous, and the most beautiful, cloud to a pilot.
0
Share on FacebookEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Share on TumblrPin on PinterestTweet about this on Twitter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *