BETTER PILOT / LIGHT FLIGHT
The Big, Bad Cloud
It doesn’t have to be a thunderstorm to be a problem
IT’S NOT AS IF I didn’t know about clouds and what they can do to
you. The rules are simple: Avoid flying into the big ones at all
times because they can tear you apart. Avoid the medium and
small ones, too, because they can be just as bad (medium) and
almost as bad (small).
It’s illegal to fly into even a small cloud—remember VFR cloud-clearance rules? It’s also unwise: Another aircraft might enter the
same cloud, out of sight, and what a nasty surprise that could be. In
fact, the only cloud you can reasonably fly into is a wisp of vapor
that you can see through, which would make it not really a cloud.
I had no intention of flying into this one, or even near it. It was
7 or 8 miles away, off to the west, and big but not really huge. It did
have a dark bottom, though, which suggested it was heavily laden
with moisture. Although a noontime forecast had mentioned a
chance of afternoon thunderstorms, it was now two hours to
sunset, and most clouds in the area were
dissipating. The air was getting smooth.
Only the one big cloud remained, and I was
headed well to the east of it.