I don’t know how many times I considered my options—maybe 50, maybe 100,
there was lots of time to sit and think—and
each time I found there were airports with
good enough weather that were well
within my fuel range. The forecast for
Muskegon didn’t change, still promising
the bare ILS minimums, but the low
weather hadn’t gotten to the airport yet.
When I flew within reception range
of the ATIS for Muskegon it was advertising visual approaches with a 6,000-foot
overcast and 6 miles of visibility. Right
next door at Grand Rapids, barely 30
miles away, the visibility was down to 3/4.
When approach cleared me to 2,500
feet and asked me to call the Muskegon
airport in sight, I told them I was still in
the clouds. But, about 6 miles south of the
airport I flew out of the clouds and made a
How do you go places in an airplane?
You depart when the weather is good
enough, and then continue only as long as
it remains good enough. The forecast for
very low weather at Muskegon was very
close to being accurate—as close as Grand
Rapids—but it was wrong. The forecast
could as easily have been for good conditions well above minimums and been
wrong in the other direction. We must use
forecasts to plan, but the weather will be as
we find it, not as a forecaster expects.
Some believe that it takes more disci-
pline to land short of the destination, or
turn around if the weather is worse than
forecast, than to not take off at all if there
are weather concerns. We cannot allow
that to be true. Forecasts are routinely
wrong in either direction, so we must have
the discipline to make the right decision at
any and every point before and during the
flight. And that decision is a continuous
one that only holds for a few minutes or a
few miles while we constantly reassess the
actual weather, not the forecast.
AVIATORS OR PILOTS?
My boss, EAA President and CEO Rod
Hightower, likes the word aviator. And also
aviate. I am pleased that Rod thinks of me
as an aviator. But, as usual, some have
groused about the use of the title aviator
and would rather think of themselves
strictly as pilots.
Actually, pilot is an older title and predated aviation by many, many years. In its
most common application, pilot is and
remains the title of a person who guides a
ship through the tricky conditions of a harbor. To this day all ships above a certain size
are required to take on a pilot who has the
local knowledge of the harbor that the ship’s
captain couldn’t possibly have. The pilot
actually takes over responsibility for guiding