MEMBER ALERT: AOPA will be closing at 1:45 p.m. Eastern on Dec. 6 and will reopen at 8:30 a.m. Eastern on Dec. 9.
March 25, 2013
I was working my way through my instrument rating. It was the middle of July, and a hazy day showed up to give some real instrument weather to increase realism at the end of the approaches. The forecast called for hazy, but no airmets or sigmets. My instructor had me put on the hood, and we commenced our workout.
Suddenly, there was a loud bang and a bright flash. I looked up enough to see out under the hood and the air around us was considerably darker than when we had taken off. An unforecast thunderstorm had been lurking in the haze, and we were in it! I flipped off the hood, and my instructor handled communications with Center while I tried to keep the blue part of the attitude indicator somewhere in the vicinity of "up".
As we could not maintain attitude or altitude with any degree of control, Center cleared us a block of airspace and we promised to tell them when we were back under control. I had slowed to maneuvering speed, and it was a good thing. There were seemingly instantaneous displacements of 90 degrees in roll and 30 degrees in pitch. Then the hail started, and it was so loud we could barely hear each other shouting. Adding insult to injury, the water separator drain on the radio cooling air came loose and started draining the rain into my left shoe instead of out the bottom of the airplane.
It felt like hours, but was less than 15 minutes before we got out of the cell and were able to shoot an approach to the home airport. When we had landed and I got a chance to look back, it was scary. I would never have considered flying if the sky had looked like that at the beginning of the lesson. The nose bowl and the leading edges of the wings had to be repainted, as the hail had bead blasted all of the paint off. I felt very lucky to be alive with an airplane still in one piece.
AOPA thanks our members for their continued support in protecting the freedom to fly.