Solid Clouds

It was way back in my bachelor days, years before I met my wife. I boarded a People Express flight from DTW to MCO and snagged a good window seat on my way back to my pathetic "trying to earn enough money to get back into college at minimum wage" life in Daytona Beach. As I took my place at the window a good looking blond girl who was about my age came and took the aisle seat in my row. "My luck may be changing." I wrongly thought to myself.

Of course, like any good aviating bachelor, I immediately tried to impress the young lady next to me with the fact that I was a pilot and I knew all about how to fly. It didn't take long, however, before I correctly concluded that this person seated next to me had exactly zero interest in me or the fact that I knew how to drive airplanes. Likewise, it took about 90 additional seconds of listening to her talk before I also concluded that the lights were on, but no one was home in the aisle seat. In fact the dingbat wouldn't shut up as she rambled on across three states about going to the Boy George concert in Orlando. Before we hit the Florida state line I was attempting to crawl into the book I'd brought for the flight.

As we approached Orlando we let down through a few broken layers of cubie-clouds and the aircraft was doing the standard turns needed for traffic and to set up the approach. About then the dingbat in the aisle seat leaned over and asked, "Yer' a pilot... why do these airplanes always do these little turns like that?"

How could I resist?

Turning to her as serious as an instructor pilot I said, "They're avoiding the solid clouds." She frowned a bit. I went on, "You've heard the term solid clouds... right?" The dingbat nodded- the rattle sound coming from her head sounded like the silverware drawer in my house- "Well," I continued to explain, "clouds are made up of ice crystals suspended in the atmosphere by vertical air currents, and if those crystals get packed close enough together they can form a solid mass. We pilots are trained to spot those masses and maneuver around them." At that moment as if on cue, the aircraft took another turn, "Ya see! There goes one now!" I pointed out my window. The dingbat leaned over me straining to see out the window. "Did ya' see it?" I asked. She said she'd missed it, but asked me to point out any others. I told her that since we were getting lower and into warmer air there probably wouldn't be any more. The dingbat was disappointed.

After we landed at MCO, the dingbat simply got up and said "C-ya'..." as I recovered my book bag and delayed as much as I could before leaving my seat. As I stood up and started to walk up the aisle, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around to see a neatly dressed fellow in a golf-shirt smiling broadly. "I loved the solid clouds bit." he laughed. "Oh... you heard that eh?" I replied. He smiled even more widely and said "Every word... you really had her goin' there, she was buying ever word of it. I'm gonna remember that one." He asked if I was from ERAU and I said that I was. "I'm on my way to get a G-III type," he told me, "This one's gonna make a great story for the break room at FlightSafety." The two of us walked and talked for a bit through the terminal and as we went our individual ways- him to his G-III type and me back to scratching my way back into college- he said "Stay clear of those solid clouds!" I replied, "Hey, we're trained for that."