The week leading up to our trip I nervously watched a storm system make its
way toward Wisconsin. Six to 9 inches of
snow and hard IFR conditions were forecast for the day of our trip.
I put too much work into this trip to let
bad weather keep us grounded. I purchased
tickets, reserved a hotel, arranged childcare
for our two kids, and rented a Cherokee for
the entire weekend, which had to be
arranged months ahead of time.
For the first time as a pilot, I was feeling
pressure to make the flight. Marginal VFR
was looking acceptable to me. I wanted to
make the trip so badly my thoughts were
beginning to scare me. A war waged within.
I’ve heard of the dangers of “get-there-
itis,” and now I was experiencing firsthand
just how powerful it can be. It’s scary
when your desires turn against you.
To protect myself, I stopped and decided
to establish guidelines to make the go/no-go
decision the morning of our flight. The more
decisions I could front-load, the easier it
would be in the critical hour. I set firm per-
sonal weather minimums that would
determine whether we’d fly or not.
We launched and had an amazing flight, at
least for the first three hours. It was just as I had
dreamed all these years. We laughed, shared
stories, and took some sightseeing detours.
Without a GPS, my plan was to fly west
until we found the Mississippi River, then
follow it north to St. Paul. Along the way I
taught Katherine how to read and navigate
with a sectional chart. By the time we
reached St. Paul, she could find landmarks
and approximate time better than I could.
A problem was brewing en route,
though—the winds were picking up.
They were now blowing more than 30
knots in St. Paul. All the airports we flew
over were reporting similar conditions. I
also had to go to the bathroom terribly
bad, and my feet were getting cold and
numb from a draft in the plane. I say this
not to whine, but because these were
legitimate factors stealing my attention
and weakening my ability to cope with
what was ahead.
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