After I made a quick trip to St. Louis yesterday for Anna’s confirmation ceremony, Erica and I needed to make another trip to attend a party at my sister’s house to celebrate Anna’s confirmation/8th grade graduation, and Graham’s graduation from Depauw.
Typical Spring weather was threatening storms. There was a cell South of St. Louis moving slowly, and a few other cells building. The forecast was for good ceilings and visibility and with the Stratus on board, I was able to get radar updates while we were airborne. So we started off, but knowing that we would turn around if there was any indication of adverse conditions. We wanted to be at the party, but we did not need to be at the party. Plus we knew we would want to get home, so it would do us no good to get there and not be able to get back.
Once airborne, the air was smooth and it all looked good. I talked to Flight service en route and while they were seeing some activity farther North and East, we had a clear, smooth flight into Spirit of St. Louis with no nearby cells. My dad and Nephew picked us up at the airport, and took us to my sister’s house.
When traveling with an airplane, and unpredictable weather, it is always important to build options into any plan. Lots of safe options mean freedom to make safe decisions, and not feel the pressure. In this case, my ace in the hole was that my parents were planning a drive home that evening. If weather worsened, Erica would ride home with them to take care of the dogs, and I would stay and either wait for all the systems to die down late evening, or stay the night and bring the airplane home in the morning calm.
In this case, the storm cells were driven by heat, and not a frontal system. Had it been a frontal system, I would have stayed home, knowing it would be more widespread. In this case, the likelihood was that the cells would dissipate as the sun set in the evening. The terminal forecast discussion mentioned this likelihood, expecting an end to anything by about 9 pm. I watched radar closely while we were at the party, and the forecast was right on as we watched a cell disintegrate over Alton, but there were a few other cells with some potential further South in Illinois. Otherwise, our route to Willow (1H5) was clear. We also left with enough daylight that we were clear of St. Louis airspace before sunset, giving me some freedom to maneuver for Erica to take a few pictures.
I had good cell signal over Sullivan (It is legal), so we texted my parents to give them our position. As it turns out, they passed through sullivan a few minutes after us. That is what I expected based on the amount of time that had passed since they left us at the airport. It is kind of neat to use as a comparison to judge the advantage the airplane offers for trips like this.
The flight was uneventful from there on out, with clear skies despite us seeing that there was some lightening far off in the distance. The radar uplink indicated that weather was well South of us down in Northeast Arkansas. We spotted the airport 10 miles out and setup for an uneventful landing back in Willow Springs. By the time we touched down, my parents were just getting to Rolla. We put the airplane and headed home.