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Zig-Zag Approved

I flew today with my friends Chick Preston and his wife Tricia, giving them a ride from the Savannah area back to Birmingham after they borrowed the plane for the weekend. It’s a fair trade. Chick is the most experienced and capable professional pilot I’ve ever known. He needed a ride and I needed some time with him in the right seat looking over my shoulder. A large part of what I still need at this point is simply confidence, and I got a kick out of Chick’s take on today’s weather compared to mine. I woke up this morning concerned about low ceilings and IFR conditions, with forecasts for thunderstorms building all day. I called Chick for his thoughts on the weather and he said “It looks great!”

We left the Midcoast Regional Airport in Hinesville around 1 pm for a 2 1/2 hour trip to Birmingham against a strong headwind, dodging bumpy cumulus buildups and going around more serious thunderstorms. It is expected that you will ask the air traffic controller to deviate around weather and a typical exchange would request permission to turn 10 or 20 degrees one way or the other to avoid weather. The controller will almost always approve the deviation and ask you to let him know when you are back on course. Today Chick handled it in a more casual way and told the controller we were going to need to zig and zag a little around some weather. He responded “N881RJ zig and zag approved.”

After dropping Tricia and Chick in Birmingham, I was looking forward to a strong tailwind to give me a quick flight back. However, that was not to be. As you can see from the FlightAware track, some lofty cloud buildups and a group of thunderstorms forced me to deviate south almost to Eufala, Alabama before finally turning due east towards home. While the tailwind helped after I turned east, I had gone so far out of the way that the return trip took 2 1/2 hours as well.

But it was a good day of flying, and just the thing I needed to get ready for typical summer flying in the south. Thanks for the help Chick. Zig and zag approved.

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