KCLT 172052Z 17008KT 7SM OVC006 13/12 A2971 RMK AO2 SLP 057 TO1330122 58026
“I’m going home!. No sense in hanging around here with nothing to do.” That’s what the line above told me today. I didn’t say it to anyone else, just to myself, but its a true statement none the less. The line at the top of this post is a METAR for the Charlotte NC, area. A METAR is a routine aviation weather report and this particular one isn’t good for flying. The first group of letters (KCLT) represents that the observation was taken at Charlotte/Douglas International airport, about 3 miles from the station. The second group of characters gives you the date and time. 172052Z means its the 17th of the month and it was taken at 2052 zulu time. Which is 8:52pm GMT and 3:52pm EST, about 3 hours before the end of my shift. The next block gives you the winds, 170 at 8 knots. The fourth block is the visibility 7 statute miles. Then, in the fifth block we get to something that matters, OVC006. This means the cloud layer is overcast at 600 feet. Well below my minimums of 1,000ft. I was not able to see the top of the Bank of America tower. The tallest building in Charlotte. It’s well known but seldom used nickname is “The Penis of The Piedmont”. At 872 feet the building is not that tall by skyscraper standards. But it towers above downtown Charlotte. That has been my most steadfast weather rule since I have had this job. If I can’t clearly see the top of that building, I won’t go. Don’t even ask me, It’s not even worth checking. The station is aware of it and I think that this rule has served me well. It keeps me from doing something I shouldn’t. I stick by this rule and they know it so there is no “oh but we really need this footage”! or trying to guilt me into going flying when I shouldn’t. That is the rule and we follow it. It is understood and respected. The sixth group of characters in the METAR, 13/12, is also helpful. It states that the temperature is 13 degrees celsius (about 55 degrees fahrenheit) and the dew point is 12 degrees celsius (between 53 and 54). Anytime you have a temperature and dew point spread that is 2 degrees or less you can expect increasingly poor visibility and rain showers. That is why when I saw this weather report I decided to pack it up and go home early. These are instrument conditions that my helicopter is not rated for. And one look at the radar told me that it was not getting any better. No flying today, should not have bothered to come in, a waste of gas.
Some days are like this. You can’t control the weather so you should find things to do with yourself while you are stuck on the ground. Honestly, this is a great thing about being a pilot. I still get paid for simply reading the report and saying that I can’t fly. It is as simple as that. There was no analysis necessary on my part. In fact there never is. It is either VFR (visual flight rules) or its IFR( instrument flight rules). That’s all there is to it. There really isn’t any decision on whether to go or not. I can go or I can not. Easy life. No one I work with knows anything about flying and they definitely don’t want to do anything unsafe so they just take my word for it. I could tell them the weather is bad any time I want. I could take advantage of this and get time off whenever I have errands to run or am just not in the mood. Of course I don’t. I usually only get in a couple hours of work in a day so I don’t want to shirk out of it.
So great news! I spent the morning shopping for Jackie’s christmas present. Im really excited to give it to her. I would write about it but she might read this. I was at work for a couple of hours. Then around 4 I got the weather report and decided to go home. I got to the library and started on my much neglected blog. I’m a lucky man. Most of the news room is working on how to cover the shooting in Connecticut. I do not envy them for that. I can not deal with that! I don’t want to read or see anything about it. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to handle it. It’s only getting worse. Kids names and their faces are just too much for me. I haven’t wrapped my head around it and I don’t want to. So many times I have been envious of the reporters and photographers. Going out in town, meeting people, hearing their stories and learning new things. Then to come back and create a packages that informs the public. They are jobs I have come to respect and wonder if I could do it myself. Today I want no part of it. I don’t even want to see the stories that come from our station. Not about this. I’m Glad I’m just the pilot.