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The Atmosphere is Ripe

It is a hot afternoon in Orlando, at least 90 degrees.  It’s the first real heat I’ve felt all year.  I volunteer to do the preflight walk around.  The ramp is sweltering and stinks of kerosene.  I don’t care because I love an afternoon report.  I’m rested and had a nice workout.  The plane looks great.  All of our aircraft are brand new.  Even though it’s my 10,oooth preflight inspection, I can’t help but marvel at the machine that’s about to carry us across the country to San Francisco.

Everything is going well.  There are no maintenance problems, the forecast is for a very light headwind, and we might even get off the gate early.  There are some scattered thunderstorms expected along our route, but nothing that can’t be avoided with a few heading changes.

Airborne, we find ourselves staring into the late afternoon sun as we cross the Gulf of Mexico.  Airliners travel pretty fast and we nearly keep up with the sun as it arks across the western sky.  I’m going to be squinting for five more hours.  It’s a tough job.   I better order some lunch and a Coke Zero.

As we enter Texas the tops of distant thunderheads can be seen lining the horizon (see picture above).  It’s time to turn on the radar and take a better look at the weather.

This is our radar return as we approach the area of storms.   Our planned course is the green line.  It looks like we’ll stay clear of the bad weather.  There is a cluster of storms to our left about eighty miles ahead, and a big monster cell to the right of our course and 150 miles ahead.

Above is the view out the front window as we approach the weather.  The pesky sun is shaded behind some cirrus clouds giving my eyes a much needed break.  The first batch of storms will remain a good fifty miles off our left.

Here’s a view out the left window as we pass the weather.

Up ahead and to the right we can see a supercell blossoming from the haze.  On our radar it’s a giant red blob.  We’ve been monitoring it for the last 150 miles.  The cell is a good 60 miles to our right and drifting even further away from our course.  The radio is buzzing with chatter as airliners bound for Dallas try to work their way around the monster cell.  We’re lucky;  we fly down a wide corridor of clear air.

This is the supecell over central Texas.  We stay a safe 60 miles upwind from this beast.  After passing the weather in Texas it is nothing but clear sailing the rest of the way to San Francisco.

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5 Responses

  1. Julie Theriot

    Ok Captain Dave…those beautiful pics work for me…..beautiful right out the window of your office….so few of us ever get to see,I”ll take the one out the front window for my desk top background!!!!
    next time you cross the Gulf, wave to your fan here in South East Louisiana who appreciates your site and adventures….
    Damn thats some kinka “anvil” top on that supercell…huh….??
    do take care!!

    May 27, 2011 at 3:30 pm

  2. DeAnn

    cool to see the comparisons

    May 27, 2011 at 5:18 pm

  3. Thanks for the story Dave. A nice bunch of photos you have there! The third one down, where did you meter off of? It looks like you may have brought out some of the shadows in post?

    May 30, 2011 at 3:03 am

    • (speaking of photo 3 of the series) I used evaluative metering on the whole frame, I use that mose 99% of the time. I used -2/3 exposure compensation. The sun was going to overexpose no matter what so I planned the blown out white circle as part of the composition. As for the photoshop — I didn’t do much of anything to this one — just a minor curves adjustment to add a bit of contrast and set a black point. Normally, I do a wide radius sharpening to pop the clouds, but this one was already popping enough.

      May 30, 2011 at 11:48 pm

  4. Alex Luedicke

    Very impressive and it is awesome to see severe weather from above instead of on the ground. Your night time shots are also terrific!

    May 9, 2015 at 4:45 pm

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