June 2, 2010
By Jill W. Tallman
Hoping to make up for lost time, Michael Combs and the Flight for the Human Spirit will depart Tennessee and head east to Georgia and North and South Carolina this week. Combs, who is flying a Remos light sport aircraft, was waiting out the weather—low clouds that would have prevented him from flying over mountains—earlier in the week.
Combs discussed the “go/no-go” process at length in a blog post on his website. As a relatively new pilot who is encountering terrain and weather with which he is unfamiliar, he relies on a team of volunteers who serve as a “mission control” to help him make the call. They track the weather several days out and determine whether he’ll be able to complete an entire flight day, which may consist of five or more stops, or part of a flight day.
“Sometimes it is safer to stay where we are at, and then fly onward when we have three or more good weather days in a row,” Combs said. “That allows us the flexibility to coordinate our stops and keep Hope One in a safer location where it will be protected from the elements. The last thing that I want is for me to knowingly fly this future museum piece to an airport where it may be sitting in a hail storm overnight.”
Combs had nothing but praise for Hope One, the Remos GX he is flying, noting that while he’s had to make scheduled stops for oil changes, the airplane hasn’t had any other mechanical difficulties. “This aircraft has been shaken in every way that you can imagine, yet it is still as rock solid as the day that I took off from Salina,” Combs said. “I feel very safe inside of her cabin, and don’t even hesitate for a moment to think that something may go wrong during the next leg.”
On June 1, Combs rolled out yet another social marketing tool: an iPhone/smartphone application that followers can use to track the Flight for the Human Spirit, in which he is endeavoring to fly in or to all 50 states. You can also follow Combs’s progress at AOPA Online or the Flight for the Human Spirit website for live Twitter and Facebook updates and videos.
Weather and Seasons
Thunderstorms didn’t get their fearsome reputation just from the extreme conditions a pilot can encounter by stumbling into, or too close to one. The reputation also hints at the speed at which thunderstorms can grow from puffy cumulus clouds into giant, opaque cumulonimbus.
A single thunderstorm can contain almost every weather-related hazard to pilots--high winds, limited visibility, hail, microbursts, and icing just to name a few. The Air Safety Institute just completed Storm Week, its weeklong education campaign to raise awareness of thunderstorms. Now is the perfect time to hold a club safety seminar and utilize the many ASI tools to help understand how ATC and weather briefers can steer you clear of the storms or help pilots make the decision to stay on the ground.
If a VFR pilot’s worst nightmare is to blunder into solid clouds, armed only with basic instrument flying skills, a similarly scary scenario awaits the instrument pilot who bets on sneaking through a stormy sector, and loses.