Weatherwit – Flaps Up

by Steve Sakiyama – 

My first attempt at flying was as a young lad when I jumped off our front porch with an open umbrella. You know, like Mary Poppins. Although scratched from a rough landing in the bushes below, in a state of convoluted logic my next flight plan involved the use of a patio umbrella. At that moment I realized that our “home security camera” (i.e. our neighbour, Mrs. B. who sees all) would report this to my mother. My flying days were over.

Despite this early failure, after many airline flights I’ve learned that flying can be both successful and enjoyable if you stick to the following rules.

Don’t bother spending time looking stellar and coiffed for your flight. After security screening, I end up stylishly frumpy, what with the kerfuffle of shoes, belts, jackets, sunglasses, hats, whatever … all happening in a mad rush. As well, while flying the combination of sleeping, eating and drinking in a confined space leaves me with wrinkles, crumbs and stains – the perfect accoutrements to a calamitous fashion mess.

Listen carefully to the safety briefing. While important it’s also free in-flight entertainment. For example, using the seat cushion as a flotation device makes me smile. You want me to hang on for dear life to something that a zillion people have already sat on?

If you have a connecting flight, be alert. In 1985 the Los Angeles Times reported that a college student, who had flown all night to L.A., caught the wrong connecting flight and ended up in Auckland instead of Oakland. Oops. Mistakes happen when you are sleep-deprived and everything blurs. Auckland; Oakland; what’s the difference?

Bring a comfy pillow. I have the type that circumnavigates my head while it rests on my shoulders. Although it looks like my head is poking up through a padded toilet seat, it works fine (as a pillow that is).

Speaking of flying high, commercial jets typically cruise at altitudes between 10 and 12 kilometres above sea level. At these altitudes, they can encounter something called a “Jet Stream.” This is a very fast, narrow current of air that generally moves west to east in a meandering path with average speeds between 160 and 320 km/h. That’s fast. They form along the boundary where cold and warm air masses meet and are fastest where the temperature contrast is greatest. It just so happens that this boundary often occurs around 60 degrees north latitude, where cold Arctic air meets up with warm air from the south – creating the “Polar” Jet Stream. The location of the Polar Jet is important for Canadian weather and forecasting since the Jet Stream steers weather systems along its path.

What kind of weather are we flying toward as we head into March? The long-range outlook suggests normal temperatures and precipitation. So let’s go with that.

Whatever the weather, this month nature will get all dressed up for its launch into spring with the emergence of vibrant colours under glimpses of blue skies. Go outside and enjoy nature’s free in-flight entertainment, especially when you are breathless from flying for too long at the speed of life. Our natural environment offers an oxygen mask in the form of incredible skies, coastlines and verdant hills. Grab hold, breathe deeply and enjoy the ride.
~ Weatherwit

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