“Time to spare–go by air!”

That old nut has been around since the days of early airlines that were hardy what you’d call reliable–and there are many that would say it is still true for airline travel today. Where it really has a grain of truth, of course, is when you are talking about light General Aviation aircraft, and most experimentals fit into that category.

No matter how much we like to think of our machines as all-weather transportation vehicles with full IFR capability, the truth is that you’re not going to win against icing or thunderstorms in the average homebuilt. So you always need to be ready to call things off, sit on the ground and wait for improvement. We did that last night in Ely, Nevada, a small mining town in eastern Nevada. (Rocket plane aficionados will remember that the Ely tracking site anchored the northern end of the X-plane “High Range” that extended down to Edwards Air Force base, and the region was chosen for a reason – there is not much between those two ends!)

Frankly, there’s not a lot going west out of Ely until you get to Reno either – and therein lies the rub. Between Ely and Carson City (our home base), there is exactly ONE weather reporting station (Fallon NAS, home of Top Gun), and it is only fifty miles east of Carson City. That  means that for 150 miles, you’ve got no idea of the details of what’s going on. NexRad covers the area, of course, but only from the edges, so you get a partial picture of what is really out there.  Mountains can block stuff.

What was out there yesterday evening as we got ready to saddle up our RV-6 for a return from a nice day of hiking and climbing, was an area of scattered thundershowers, and a sun rapidly sinking into the west. Sure, we had ADS-B weather, but that amounts to nothing but NexRad, and there are no stations to give you ground truth about ceilings and visibility. With tall, steep mountain ranges sticking out of the basins to touch the clouds, its not a place to stumble around in the dark. These afternoon thunderstorms are common of course, giving way to nice easy morning weather – so we booked a room and went to find the best pizza in town. Found it too – the Casino Café at the Hotel Nevada.

Ely Nevada – nice place for an overnight – especially when there are dragons out there in the hills.

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Paul Dye
Paul Dye, KITPLANES® Editor at Large, retired as a Lead Flight Director for NASA’s Human Space Flight program, with 40 years of aerospace experience on everything from Cubs to the Space Shuttle. An avid homebuilder, he began flying and working on airplanes as a teen and has experience with a wide range of construction techniques and materials. He flies an RV-8 and SubSonex jet that he built, an RV-3 that he built with his pilot wife, as well as a Dream Tundra and an electric Xenos motorglider they completed. Currently, they are building an F1 Rocket. A commercially licensed pilot, he has logged over 6000 hours in many different types of aircraft and is an A&P, FAA DAR, EAA Tech Counselor and Flight Advisor; he was formerly a member of the Homebuilder’s Council. He consults and collaborates in aerospace operations and flight-testing projects across the country.


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