Michael McCafferty - European Biplane Tour

Tribute To Lowell Williams

Tribute To Lowell Williams

All of the previous day's preparations came to naught today. While every step in the process leading up the flight was carefully executed, my timing and the weather conspired to keep me on the ground.

For a variety of reasons, we got a late start on the 90 minute drive from Zurich Switzerland, where I have been staying at the home of Mattias and Nici, to Donaueschingen, Germany, where my biplane is hangared.

While we were driving north to the airport, we could see the sky change from a calm, clear blue to an ever-darker mass of cumulonimbus clouds. Some hope still remained that I could make it into the air because the clouds were mainly to the north, and I wanted to go west, but when I got the meteorological reports from the control tower, I decided not to go.

I remember very clearly the look on the face of my flight instructor, Lowell Williams, when we discussed weather. Lowell is a WWII P-51 Mustang fighter pilot, an ace, and even at the age of 75 still teaches aerobatics every day, and in my opinion is one of the best pilots alive. And when he talks about weather, he is very clear on the subject. It's one thing you don't play around with.

I'm a very conservative pilot when it comes to weather. When I make a "No-Go" decision, I feel very good about it. I consider it to be an opportunity to do the right thing, not as a lost flight. To me, it's a tribute to Lowell Williams. I would much rather be on the ground than in the air, if being in the air means dealing with deadly thunderstorms, gusting high winds, reduced visibility and low ceilings. That kind of stuff is just not fun, and if it's not fun then why fly?

I'll stay in a hotel here in Germany tonight, and get an early start tomorrow, before the heat of the day brings more trouble in the sky.

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