"Lightning and tigers and bears,,,, OH MY! :-)  "

 

Instrument training totals to date:  19.6 hours instrument/hood, 4.4 hours Frasca Simulator..... 24 hours 'total'  whoo hoo! ;-)
 
I had my instrument lesson yesterday.  A cell was coming in (with some interesting cells along the way to Stockton airport) to my home airport (RHV).  So my instructor asked me if it was important for me to get back at a certain time or not.  If it was, we would just shoot landings, if it wasn't imperative that I get back to my home airport on a certain time (or day?) we would go to Stockton airport if we could, and practice some VOR & NDB approaches,, and if some significant level cells started popping up along our way as we were talking to NORCAL then we would have to land and stay wherever we were 'till the 'offending' cell passed through.
 
As it worked out, we made it to Stockton with a minimum of vectoring by NORCAL to get us around some of the high level cells along our way.  My first approach to Stockton was a textbook example of "Paralysis by Analysis" with some 'spectatoring' tossed in.  It wasn't pretty, at all, because all along the way I kept thinking to myself, I am going to do my first 'real' (non-simulator approach) I hope I don't mess up too badly...  Well, I kept thinking like this all the way through the procedure with predictable results, however my second and third efforts were infinitely better.  I guess I needed one time to get rid of the 'first time ever' approach nerves/doubts.
 
Soon it was time to return to my home airport and my instructor told me that we would continue our radar following/advisories on the way back because of the high level cells that were passing through Northern California.  He told me to remove the foggles and he would have me fly VFR.  The reason for this was that he said he wanted me to be able to see the cells that we would be receiving vectors around.  Shortly after we were given a vector that would take us south of a HIGH level cell off to our right, in the distance, I saw the first lightning strike I had ever seen from a small plane from that high level cell that we were being vectored well to the south of.  I remember feeling a curious mix of excitement, awe and respect when I saw the lightning flash.  My instructor took that moment to ask me what I thought would happen if lightning struck the plane.  I told him it was something that I had thought about before and that I would guess that the lightning would do nothing to us but dissipate back into the atmosphere off of the airplane skin since we were not in contact with the ground.  He told me that was correct.
 
We saw examples of virga all over and basically we were being vectored through a 'clear' patch (no cells or virga) and I was impressed with all the pains that the controller was taking to keep us clear of the high level cells that were moving through our area.  Gotta admit that not only was it a special 'treat' to be able to do a little VFR flying (we did have VFR minimums) since I haven't got to do very much since beginning my Instrument training.  The added benefit of being able to see what high level cells looked like from the sky made it even better.  I have to say what surprised me the most was that the cell that was spewing the lightning (albeit at a distance from us) didn't look as 'sinister' as I thought it would.  I expected to see a 'picture' similar to what I would see from the ground, so to speak.  Looking at the high level cell made me realize how easily an unaware pilot could think it would be just fine to go underneath the cloud (assuming he/she hadn't seen the lightning activity yet) and inadvertently get sucked up and tossed in the massive updrafts/downdrafts underneath it.
 
Well it all worked out well.  We had left our home airport just before a cell was going to move through and returned shortly after it had just left.
 
What a lesson,,, what a day..... wow!!!!!

Good Flights!

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