It was my wife’s birthday, we were eating at one of our favorite restaurants and the waitress had just delivered a huge sopapilla with cinnamon and ice cream. Did I mention we were spending the night in a brand new hotel that may be the best value ever! Ok, a little over the top but what’s so special about a guy taking his sweetie out for a celebration? Read on – it could have been so different.
Three days earlier we arrived via our company’s Cessna 310 for three fun-filled (not) days of technical training. We had hoped to land at McKinney Regional but a line of thunderstorms suggested we stop at Denton, 35 miles to the west.
Now, the training was almost over. I had been watching the weather all day, hoping to see the line of storms that had been to the west either dissipate or move on. Almost like a miracle, there was a huge break in the line of storms so that we could go direct back home. Things were looking up!
Or were they? My wife had to vacate the hotel room mid-day but the training dragged on to 4:30. She pluckily sat in the rental car for the afternoon doing hand work on a quilt she had been making. Finally, we set off in rush hour traffic, making our way back to Denton. An hour later we finally arrived at the airport as the sun crept ever so slowly toward the horizon.
That giant gap in the storms had changed to be sort of two parallel lines of storms with a 20-mile separation between them. We would have to fly a zig-zag pattern, going around the north end of one line of weather, then running parallel between the lines for 30-40 miles, then turning back on course home after passing the south end of the second line of convection.
I had been up almost 13 hours by then, but we were both really ready to be home. Besides, the dogs at home needed to be fed. No time to be slacking off now!
I loaded (jammed) the airplane full of our ample supply of suitcases, bags, computers, etc. Back into the FBO to drop off the rental car and hit the bathroom one more time. The sun settled ever so slightly. I checked the radar one last time and the storm direction vectors show there was a slight (?) chance the lines could converge. Surely not.
As I stood in front of the FBO counter, I couldn’t… quite… let go of the car keys. My mind raced back to an earlier trip bouncing around in crummy weather followed by landing at a third-world FBO somewhere in a neighboring state. It would be getting dark soon.
But I couldn’t chicken out now. I had loaded the stinking airplane for Pete’s sake! What a sissy, they’ll be saying. I looked at my tired wife and really really didn’t want to disappoint her by bailing out now.
“Hey jerk face!” my conscience screamed. “What about PILOT IN COMMAND don’t you understand? Who makes the decisions around here? The line boy? Is this a good idea or not? If it’s not, grow a pair and do what you know to do!”
I couldn’t believe the words came out of my mouth: “We’re… going… to… have… to… cancel…” The look on the young lady at the FBO desk was incredulous. Really? You’re not going? The FBO manager gave me a “loser” look and wandered off.
I asked the girl at the desk to help us find a hotel. At first we tried for the upscale hotel but got treated like Little Larry on the basketball team. Ok, ok, we’ll take that other, cheaper hotel. This was shaping up to be a very costly cancellation. My wife looked resigned to another third-world adventure.
Arriving at the hotel, I was pleasantly surprised that someone hadn’t called them to warn that a “weather coward” was coming their way. Our reception was gracious and we were directed to a room on the top floor. Walking to the room, we were impressed with the appointments of the new hotel. Was that a glimmer of light breaking through the emotional gloom? The room was quite nice, larger than most hotel rooms with high ceilings and upscale furnishings. Now it was off to supper. Didn’t we see the family-owned restaurant we like so much? Let’s try to find it.
As they say, the rest is history. The decision to cancel the flight led to a pleasant stay in a better than expected accommodation, a good meal and a memorably good birthday celebration. Contrast that to the teeth-gritting/heart-stopping run for your life between two lines of thunderstorms that had awaited us.
This turned out so good, I may make cancelling a flight a regular part of my schedule!
Doing “the right thing” really is a good idea. Go figure.