Mrs. Dr. Flying Shrink (also a clinical psychologist) got her first flight today. While all ended well, it was not exactly the fight I would have hoped we would have.
I have been excited about sharing my passion for flying with her actually in the cockpit for quite some time, and it was finally here. Of course, she has heard me droning on about flying for over a year, but this is just not the same thing. The original plan was that we would take off from Chicago Executive (KPWK) and follow the Chicago shoreline down to KVPZ, where we would tie down and head to a local restaurant that my instructor tells me is pretty good and best known for its turkey. Mrs. Shrink had managed to clear her schedule for today's flight, and so we were all ago. Or so I thought:
Flying rule #2: if there is a 30% chance of thunderstorms and you rented a plane, that means there is a 99% chance of thunderstorms.
The forecast for the greater Chicago area has been calling for thunderstorms for much of the weekend, and as I typically do for short hops I decided I would take a "watch and wait" approach. Things had been looking good for our trip despite some boomers on Thursday night. I went to bed last night with flight planning completed and a pretty good forecast.
HA! I got up this morning and the forecast showed an increased chance of thunderstorms after 3 pm. Because we had to be back by 3 pm to retrieve the Boy and the Banana, I decided that we'd just fly straight back and have lunch near KPWK. Things looked great for this plan until I was just about done with my preflight, when I looked up to see that the sky had really gotten dark to the west. I checked the weather again and all still looked safe and VFR, so we fired up. The ground controller told another pilot that the storm I saw brewing was not supposed to be close for another two hours.
I had already decided that we were not going to make it KVPZ, and that instead I would fly out to the shoreline and turn back abeam the Sears Tower. That was my plan on takeoff. Mrs. Shrink seemed to like being up high and seeing things from a different perspective. We flew over our house but I really didn't spend much time trying to find it: I was at 1600 MSL with a 1900 MSL Bravo ceiling and not interested in practicing CFIT, and I was getting increasingly nervous about that brewing storm. These tight altitude tolerances and worries about the storm really curbed my enthusiasm especially because I heard a pilot report that he could see lightening out in the distance just as we approached the shoreline.
"We need to go back." Gosh, saying those words sucked because I was really looking forward to showing off the shoreline and getting a few landings in. I am of course trying to build cross-country PIC time as well in preparation for an instrument rating, so this was quite disappointing. I had considered continuing the flight and the diverting to KVPZ, KGYY or even KUGN until the storm passed, but given our need to be home returning to KPWK was the best logical solution. Mrs. Shrink already knew that I was concerned about this and did not fuss. She did get to see downtown from the air, Ba'hai temple and the area around our home. My landing was adequate but a bit bouncy because I landed fast as usual.
So, a meager 0.5 was entered into the log book today, with at least 0.2 of that being on the ground waiting to depart. But my decision to return showed itself to be an overall good one as the boomers hit about 20 minutes after leaving the airport.