Captain’s Blog – March 2024 Whether or not

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Captain’s Blog – March 2024 Whether or not

Date: 03/08/2024     Category: Captain's Blog    

Weather or Not

Captain’s Log Starship 1XE, Day 8 in the month March, Earth Calendar year 2024.

Before I jump into this month’s Captain’s Blog, I want to invite those of you in the Roaring Fork Valley to join us on March 15th for the Friday Morning Uphill Breakfast Club at Cliffhouse!

EcoFlight is hosting the Cliffhouse breakfast, and I would love to see you there. We will enjoy the skin (or the lift) up Buttermilk, a half-priced breakfast, tales of flight missions, and a free raffle for prints of some gorgeous aerial photos. This Cliffhouse breakfast is good, you won’t want to miss it.

Now, let’s get into it.

As I write this, I am stranded in one of the most beautiful valleys that I know – and I know a lot of beautiful valleys – my home in Conundrum Creek, near Aspen, Colorado. Summer and spiritual gathering spot of the Ute Tribe until the 1880s.

A much needed storm is passing over us and wreaking havoc in our “little humble mountain town.” A snowplow went off the road in the whiteout, hence the road closure, and us stranded in Conundrum Creek.

With all this crazy weather of late, it has me pondering how much we rely on weather forecasts for our planning purposes. Every EcoFlight begins and ends with an emphasis on safety and weather is an integral part of that. Flight planning starts weeks in advance of our flight mission – joining coalition calls, studying maps, getting to know the campaign, and planning how we can make the most of the aerial perspective to amplify projects and inform the public. Strategic planning ensures the overflights will be successful, from obtaining the best mix of stakeholders on board the flight, to choosing the best airport for the mission, and most importantly, ensuring a safe weather environment.

Back in the day there was very limited access to good weather forecasting. Look at the clouds, point your finger in the air and feel which direction the wind is blowing, and give it your best shot. These days we are bombarded by constant weather forecasts, updated weather reports, and reports on the weather reports. It is sometimes overwhelming but with practice and experience you can glean the best of the forecast models and plan accordingly. Along with the myriad of apps available, we are fortunate enough to have a very competent local forecaster who is surprisingly correct most of the time albeit at times too pedantic for me. The weatherman’s prediction usually looks something like this:

“Parameters:  Ambient water is good with values reaching 3.7G/Kg tonight. Values will fall to 2.3G/Kg once the cold front passes. Moisture transport vectors are excellent ahead of the cold front and as the cold front passes. Bursts of snow are likely with this new frontal boundary. A new and strong upper air trough heads into our region tonight and it hangs around on Sunday/Sunday night.”

Bottom line is: more than a foot of snow and absolutely no chance of flying.

Our latest mission which we have chosen to accept is to make it to Tucson, Arizona. Weather, weather, weather, Aspen, Montrose, Farmington, Tucson, what will the jet stream throw at us next? Our upcoming flight has a specific target, the US/Mexico border wall. In the US and across the world, construction of border walls has spiked, with six times the number of walls now than at the end of the Cold War. Miles and miles of walls block endangered species from accessing food, mates, and habitat. These walls are more than a political barrier, they endanger some of our most precious species. Our flight is with conservation experts and Scripps News, filmmakers working to shed light on the global impact of political boundaries on our wildlife. The flight path will take us over Coronado National Forest Sky Islands, an area I am very familiar with as I frequently fly the remote mining operations here, another impediment to wildlife. We will look at the habitat of at least ten threatened and endangered species, including the endangered jaguar. 

The challenge is how do we get to Tucson when our flight is a couple of days away? Flying the day before is not an option, as the weather is forecast to be abysmal, so what to do? These are important flights and we take our commitments seriously.  

The answer is to leave a day early and beat the storm, accomplish the mission and wait for the next break in the weather to return home.
We live by the old acronym that I learned through NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership Program): prior planning prevents piss performance – whoops! – poor performance.

A lot goes into it and I am proud to say a lot is accomplished!


Bruce Gordon