Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Thunder God

As a commercial pilot, I've encountered some peculiar happenings that aren’t likely to be experienced by the ground bound. For instance, being caught in stormy weather in an open cockpit.

Once I was flying cross country en route form my maintenance base in Oklahoma to my home base in East Texas. I was caught in a tremendous line of heavy thunder storms. My Stearman was not equipped for flying by instruments. I was strictly VFR (visual flight rules) with only a magnet compass, and that very untrustworthy. I was navigating by landmarks, having flown the route a number of times before. 

As the sky darkened I was forced to fly quite low to stay clear of lowering stormy looking clouds. It began to rain and lightning began to flash. Thunder claps were loud enough that I could hear them over the roar of my Pratt Whitney engine. The rain became heavy to the point that my forward visibility was limited to about a half mile or less. I was a bit worried and was reminded of a poem I had written some years back.


The thunder god rears his awesome head
And rumbles his warning dark and dread.
No prudent airman dares to tread
Too near this angered giant.

On convective energy he mounts the sky
‘Till his anvil head is five miles high
With an electric flickering in his evil eye
He mutters and rumbles and threatens - Defiant.

His approach is announced by ominous sound
With throaty booms that shiver the ground.
Menacingly he gathers his storm all ‘round
And the air grows sultry and still.

Scowling and growling, his fury grows.
The heavens darken and creation knows
With malevolent intent he glowers at those
Who would dare to resist his will.

There he sits astride my path,
A meteorological tower of rage and wrath
Nature’s cumulo-psychopath,
Maddened because I’ve invaded his sacred sky

I’m cautious and careful and it has served me well
So I change course and it seems I can tell
As I circumnavigate this flickering hell
Of all men, he hates most those that can fly.

So I am threading my way underneath these angry giants, hunkered down behind the small windshield, hoping to stay dry. It’s a losing battle though - soon I’m sopping wet. The giants are hurling thunderbolts at me but so far they have missed. 

The rain gets heavier with small hail mixed in. If the hail gets larger, I will be forced to land some place like a pasture or a country road. After about an hour I can see my home town and then my home base runway. I put the wheels down ever so gently. Actually I am water skiing until the ship slows down and the tires touch the ground. Sheets of water are sent out each side. I slow down and turn off the runway and taxi into the hanger. My boots are full of water and I am soaked to the bone.

My brother, also a pilot, is in the hanger to greet me. I climb out and he gives me a look of disgust and says, "Brother Dale, I would have thought you had better sense than to be flying in weather like this."

I agreed with him. It was foolish but at least I was home.

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