I’m at home this weekend, on sick leave. I absolutely hate calling in sick, but left over sinus blockage from last week resulted in some nasty ear popping on Sunday evening. I had scheduling pull me off the remainder of my trip, and the doc has me on some medicine to fix the ears back up. The extra time off is useful, however, as I am in the process of buying a new house. The old one is wonderful, but it’s also 45 minutes away at best from my life and work. The new one is about 8 minutes (yes, I timed it) to church and about the same to work. Lord willing, the inspection will go well Wednesday, and I should close the 12th of next month.

I was rummaging through the hidden recesses of my kit bag, and came across this short story I wrote while sitting ready reserve in Chicago. It’s based on a flight from Toledo back to Chicago. I think it may be a bit overdramatic (likely due to the utter lack of drama in the crew room while I was writing), but I liked it enough at second discovery I decided I’d let other people see what they thought….

“The blackness of night veils the peril aloft, but a flash of lightning betrays the line of thunderstorms from which it darts. These occasional bursts of light confirm in brilliant silhouette what our radar suggests: heavy precipitation falls across our planned route to Chicago, stretching far to the south. The Captain alerts the flight attendant while I turn the lights up a bit lest we be blinded by the lightning. Both of us pull our charts for Chicago now, knowing it may be difficult once airborne.

Four minutes before our Expect Departure Clearance Time (EDCT, pronounced ‘edict’), I start the second engine and complete the taxi checks. Like clockwork, the tower clears us for takeoff exactly at the EDCT time. Our lights blaze pinpricks of white as we race upward into the darkness. Almost immediately, we feel the unrest of theses skies.

Checking on with Chicago center, we begin the chess game. These are the fall storms of the Great Lakes: violent, but without the spectacular vertical development of their Southern cousins. But air traffic control already has streams of aircraft cruising above them, and so we are forced to deviate laterally, swinging 90 degrees off track to the north.

Several minutes later, Chicago points out a friendly sight, another Eagle Embraer is also paralleling the storms, a mile in front and a thousand feet below. His miniscule presence against the immensity of the clouds is both comforting and sobering. We race north in silence, probing for the elusive gap; every minute takes us almost ten miles further off course.

Our makeshift formation is alone, ATC clears us to deviate as far north as the Canadian border, and then the nearness of the storm fills the radio with static. This is real flying. And then, finally, the weather weakens. We begin to turn: five degrees, another five, ten, twenty, the clouds give way. We break into the clear, the stars shining clearly about us.

But our worries are not over. We have burned a vast amount of fuel; as I accelerate to best forward speed the engines are consuming almost four thousand pounds an hour. Diversion seems certain for a moment, but then our dispatcher calls with the welcome news that we no longer require an alternate landing airport, freeing up enough reserve fuel that we may continue. Off to our right, the other Eagle breaks away, the storm defeated, but not soon enough.”

If nothing else, it was a fun way to pass the time on ready…. Oh, before you go, I finally updated safeguard last week, but it still wasn’t the ambassador article I keep promising. Nonetheless, go take a look, it’s a lot more edifying than what you’re reading here! I still have hopes for the ambassador article in the near future.