I woke this morning expecting a relatively straight forward flight back to Chandler via Lake Havasu. But, after getting down to the airport and getting a look at the weather, it was quickly obvious that things weren’t looking so great. There was a lot of convective activity around Arizona already and it was only 8am local, which is apparently very unusual as it normally only starts to kick off around the afternoon when the day heats up. Suddenly, there was bit of trepidation back. Although, no problems devouring the breakfast sandwich I got off the lovely folks at Barn Storm Cáfe.
What I was looking at was confirmed by the briefer when I rang to file my flight plan. He also seemed surprised that there was so much building in the early morning. He was also pretty unconvinced of the idea of me taking off into what he could see, especially the route from Havasu to Chandler.
I started to see how I could alter my plans, whether I could route down south via Blythe and maybe land if it was getting too murky, or even head somewhere completely different and stay another night away from home. I figured that Blythe wasn’t particularly a place that looked interesting enough to get stuck at, so I knocked that plan on the head fairly fast. I eventually decided that another night in Big Bear wouldn’t be the worst outcome, likewise Lake Havasu would be an interesting place to spend the night.
The weather radar also seemed to show a clear run to Lake Havasu, but it seemed to be moving in. So, I headed off, with the intention that should I run into weather en-route that I would return to Big Bear. Eventually, it turned out that the weather which looked like it might have met me in Lake Havasu, hadn’t made it quite so far West.
Next thing was whether to try to get back to Chandler or not. After doing a lap or two of the apron at Lake Havasu trying to find some where to park that wasn’t labeled RESERVED, I finally spotted some guy waving me over. He parked me in an unmarked spot outside his FBO(Fixed Based Operator) where he directed me to the pilot briefing room so I could close my flight plan and see if Chandler was going to be possible.
Looking at the latest radar images it was pretty clear that the weather wasn’t getting much worse. Back in Big Bear, one of my concerns was, if it’s this bad at 8am, what’s it going to be like when the day starts to heat up. I figured I’d nothing to lose by attempting to get back, but being fully prepared to hog tail it back to Lake Havasu should I hit a wall of weather.
The first half of the trip tracked about 20 miles to the west boundary of the weather I had seen on the radar and it certainly looked pretty murky. When it came to turning for Phoenix albeit lower visibility there was still well over 30 to 40 miles. In the end the only real deviation I made was by-passing one planned waypoint called SADLL, which happened to have a fairly heavy looking rain shower sitting right on top of it and this maneuver was actually a short cut anyway.
So in the end I didn’t really have any problems at all. But, there was definitely weather out there as the radio was hopping with different crews looking for routing around weather. All in all it actually made for an interesting days flying. There was a bit of thinking outside the box and I certainly got more decision making experience out of it than had I just a simple fair weather flight back.
Unfortunately now, my beloved N7308C is nearing it’s 100 hour check and it’s looking like being taking out of action for a couple of days. I’m thinking about taking a long trip into Utah and maybe Nevada. There’s some interesting places I’d like to see. From Moab and the Archers National Park to Furnace Creek in Death Valley which is 200ft below sea level. It’s all ahead of me, but apparently there’s also a lot of weather due over the next few days. However, if it was like today I should be able to work around it. One of the advantages of learning to fly in Ireland is that you quickly learn how to deal with showers on your planned route.
At the moment I’ve nothing planned for tomorrow, I’ll head out to the airfield, see what the weathers doing and make a decision and plan a flight accordingly.
For now it’s back to the Camelbackpackers, which is a pleasure as it’s nearly like being in your home it’s that cozy and friendly a spot.