May 11, 2009
This weekend I had my first opportunity to confront one of the leading killer of pilots, Get-There-itis. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association say "The determination to reach a destination, combined with hazardous weather, claims the lives of dozens of pilots and their passengers yearly." For weeks I have been planning a cross-country flight to Indianapolis. The plan was for my Dad and I to fly from Chicago to Indy to visit my Grandmother (my Dad's mother) and also enjoy the first day of time trials for the Indy 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
As the flight date drew closer, the weather in the 10 day forecast continued to improve, only to disappoint the day prior to the trip. The night before our Saturday morning departure the forecast called for rain, low ceilings and high winds. When I awoke, I was encouraged by the look outside but that did not last long. A combination of online weather through AOPA's website and a call to Flight Service for a weather briefing proved that it would not be a great day for the flight. At my destination there was a direct crosswind of 18 knots, gusting to 25 with forecast for no change in winds. Additionally, at airports near Chicago there were deteriorating ceilings and reports of turbulence and wind shear. I made the executive decision to scrub the flight.
Luckily the weather looked like it would improve overnight. So I adjusted plans for a Sunday roundtrip. I woke up Sunday morning to a nearly windless blue sky. I picked up my Dad and we headed out to Chicago Executive. and before too long we were airborne and flying along the Chicago skyline enroute to Indianapolis. It was a quiet morning in the skies so we had no trouble getting flight following from Chicago Approach and throughout the flight. I enjoyed showing my Dad the the intricacies of the G1000. Having been raised in Indiana he seemed to enjoy viewing towns from above that previously he had only been accustomed to seeing from the ground level.
After arriving at Eagle Creek Airpark we drove out to visit with my Grandmother. We decided to go back towards the airport for a Mother's Day brunch. We ate at Rick's Boatyard a favorite destination for pilots. I had to sample the Boatyard burger since it was rated in the Top 10 $100 Hamburgers of 2009 earlier this year. The burger lived up to its rating. Even better was the company. It was great sharing the flight with my Dad then enjoying a Mother's Day brunch with my Grandmother (one of my loyal readers, Thanks Grandma) and my Dad.
After the enjoyable meal I re-checked the weather. According to the briefer it looked like we would have lower ceilings but fine VFR flying weather, so we fired up the trusty Cessna and rolled down the runway for departure. Again we were able to pick-up flight following, though as we approached Chicago the controllers were getting busier and busier and finally canceled our flight following. We also noticed visibility diminishing a bit as we approached Lake Michigan and a light rain started to fall on the windshield. As we passed Gary, IN the rain increased and it became apparent that there was a storm ahead in the Chicago area.
Although we were anxious to get home to enjoy a Mother's Day dinner with my mother I knew the right call was to divert. During flight training instructors often have their students practice unexpected diversions. A pilot on my shoulder reminded me of all the horror stories about pilots flying into instrument meteorological conditions(IMC). Since earning my license I have not had a real reason to divert but found the decision came easy. I always figured I would not be one of those pigheaded pilots who suffer from Get-There-Itis, and was glad to see I could resist that urge!
I called up Gary and re-routed for landing at Gary International. My Dad and I sat back in the leather chairs at the Gary JetCenter and watched part of the Cubs game while I periodically checked in on the patchy storms working their way through Chicago. After about a forty-five minute break the weather had cleared and we were back on our way. The storm had cleared out the General Aviation traffic and we were able to pick-up flight following again for the bumpy return flight up the lakefront.
Often people ask what I love about flying. I can say that this weekend's flights was one of the best reasons to fly. I was able to spend a great day with my Dad while surprising my Grandmother for Mother's Day and enjoying her company for the day. I look forward to making this flight again sometime soon. Weather permitting, of course.