Flying instrument approaches into even marginal weather is something that I really love to do. The challenge of guiding 20,000 pounds of aircraft filled with soft squishy bits (people) onto the centerline of a runway hidden by clouds/rain/fog/snow/night/crap is just simply a blast. Sometimes the entire flight is in the weather and there’s no sense looking out the windows until the last few seconds when you either break out and see the runway or you don’t. That’s often the case in piston aircraft. You just can’t climb high enough to get on top of the weather so you’re forced to spend hours grinding away in the clouds, getting bounced around, flying through rain, snow and ice, dodging thunderstorms and generally earning every dime you make. (Lot’s of times the pay rate for flying piston powered aircraft can be measured in dimes)
In a jet, on the other hand, It’s rare that you can’t get on top. Tooling along at 43,000 feet ,or higher if need be, (the Citation 650 tops out at 51,000 feet!) with the clouds and all the nastiness therein is simply bliss. I’m always struck by the stark contrast of flying along in the bright sunshine (Hey, it’s always a sunny day if you climb high enough) then descending below the clouds only to find out that it’s really a crummy day down there.
Okay, I’ll have to admit that the preference of flying jets above the weather vs. smaller planes down in the crap applies to most pilots but not to me. Don’t get me wrong, I love flying jets. And doing 500 knots at 43,000, sipping coffee and chatting with your copilot about where we’re going to have lunch when we land is kind of nice. But what really gets me going is the fight. Sweating it out down low in the weeds. Dodging the weather dragons that threaten to end the flight anyone foolish to challenge them. That’s what I love. Breaking out of the clouds at 200 feet with visibility so bad you can only see the runway end identifier lights after a few hours of flying where the outcome was always in doubt is LIVING BABY! Yeah, I didn’t get the nickname “Scary Kerry” for nothing.
The clip above is an approach I flew into Appleton Wisconsin last week. It isn’t particularly low or difficult but it’s all I have for now.