Late night lightning

The weather modification internship was a 24/7 operation. We had to fly and release seeding material whenever there was a thunderstorm with a hail threat. That means I sometimes got a phone call at 3 a.m. or so. However, I could anticipate this to some extent thanks to our meteorologists, so it wasn’t too bad.

Sometimes I flew at 10 p.m., got back on the ground at midnight to refuel, flew again, and landed again at 2 a.m. before going back home to sleep. All of a sudden, I got a phone call at 5 a.m. saying “Hey, there is a thunderstorm coming. You gotta be flying very soon.” Then, I went back to the airport and flew again. Some people might hate this, but I really enjoyed this kind of unique work schedule.

Another time, we flew at night, maybe around 11 p.m. We could not see the moon and there wasn’t a lot of lightning so we couldn’t really see clouds. Sometimes, we were too close to storms or even inside clouds occasionally. What does it mean? Strong turbulence and hail!

At one moment, we had a 2,000 feet/min updraft and then we had a 1,000 feet/min downdraft. Next second, we hit hail. Luckily, the hail was small enough so the aircraft didn’t receive any damage. Yeah, we didn’t crash luckily. However, we were pushed away from the Bowman airport, which is our base, so we diverted to Dickinson. On the way there, it was a real bumpy ride.

As I wrote before, I get extremely scared when it is bumpy, so this was like torture. Anyway, our 30 year-old airplane was still in one piece and flying fine. When we were flying next to the runway at Dickinson airport for the landing, there was a loud bang noise and a flash near the left wing. The lightning was so close that I thought it hit us for a moment, but it didn’t.

As soon as we landed and parked the airplane, heavy rain hit the airport, followed by small hail. We stayed at the airport for a few hours and then flew back to Bowman while watching the sunrise.

Of course, we didn’t always fly. When the weather was nice, we went fishing, walked on the runway just for fun, mowed grass, washed and waxed the airplane, helped out local maintenance guys, and so on.