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Three Seasons, One Flight

For pilots, autumn is an extraordinary time of year. As the Northern Hemisphere tilts away from the sun, cooler, drier air begins to move south, displacing the haze and humidity of summer. Visibility improves each week, until you can see a hundred miles or more in every direction from the cockpit of your airplane.

If you’re flying north/south across the mountains, you’ll get a special treat—three seasons in one flight. A trip from Memphis for a weekend visit to Rutland, Vermont, starts in summer, with temperatures still in the 70s and the fields and forests along the Mississippi shaded deep green. Moving northeast across Kentucky and West Virginia, autumn slowly appears. The trees take on traces of yellow and umber, and every few miles a mountainside maple blazes red among them.

From Pittsburgh north, you’ll see more bare fields… recently harvested or sown with winter wheat. East, along the higher ground of the Alleghany plateau, you’ll begin to see whole vistas of fall foliage.

As you pass into New York, the Finger Lakes come into view to your left. Autumn has its full hold here, brown fields fringed in orange, yellow, and pine green. Behind them, dark clouds hang low on the northwest horizon, bringing lake-effect rains to Syracuse and Utica.

Approaching Rutland, you pass through a snow shower at 8,000 feet, spawned by the northwest wind as it crosses the Adirondacks. You may even see a few traces of snow clinging to the shaded northern slopes of Killington Peak as you enter the pattern for Runway 31 at Rutland–Southern Vermont Regional Airport.

The evening air in Rutland is cool and crisp. Geese announce their arrival at a nearby lake as the wind calms with sunset. In the morning you'll find frost on your wings, and a feeling in the air that winter is waiting just behind the mountains.

This is autumn in New England. Enjoy it. And remember that Indian summer is just a few scenic hours away.

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