Waiting it Out


This year’s west coast winter is challenging for non-flight-into-known-icing aircraft, even those with full IFR capabilities! Storm after storm keeps coming onshore, and flying up in the mountains in cold wet clouds just doesn’t work. So it takes a little strategy, and some timing.

I had some business to conduct down in Southern California (a two and a half hour flight from our base near Reno) this week, but winter storms were predicted on about four day centers. I picked a nice day just before the next storm was predicted to touch the coast, and dashed down the Owens Valley, past Edwards (currently home of the “not so dry lakebed”), and around Rosamond into our San Bernardino Mountain lair at Big Bear. Took care of business—and then the weather set in.

Fortunately, there’s a nice indoor place to keep the airplane, and lots of writing and correspondence to catch up on—fortunate, because I woke up to plenty of snow this morning, as evidenced by the pine trees drooping under the weight of all that frozen moisture. The Valkyrie can sit and wait (with its drop-light heater and horse blanket to keep it warm) while we let the snow plows clear the runway and nature to clear the skies.

Everyone needs a break now and then, and a weather-enforced break is sometimes all we get! Forecast is for flyable weather for tomorrow, so we’ll just wait it out—an important skill for every pilot to learn. Weather-related accidents seem to be on the decrease these days, at least in the experimental world, where we have so much more capability to keep tabs on what’s ahead of us (geographically and temporally) than we used to. It’s a combination of technology and learning patience that seems to be winning that battle—and while technology is good, the patience is probably more important.

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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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