Deena and I took in as much of the Big Island as we could, knowing that I might be flying back the next day. We hiked, we swam, we drove and drove some more, and ending the evening watching the red glow build from the active volcano. It was awesome and perfect.
I began looking at the weather to see how reasonable it was to return. The storm hadn’t fully reached the islands yet, so it looked like there would be a possibility of getting out in time. All the islands showed VFR, but Honolulu, my arriving airport showed MVFR, with OC at 2,500, scattered at 3,500, and broken at 4,500. It was a tight squeeze getting back into a rather complicated Class B airport and I knew it was just above my skill level. Good Pressure… Bad Pressure? I didn’t feel confident so I called an instructor at the flight school on Honolulu to get his thoughts. He agreed it was low, but said it would probably burn off. We waited a few hours, talked again, it hadn’t changed much so I made the call to not go. This was hard to do, as I knew the window was closing and the storm was arriving soon, which meant it would be at least a few days before I could come back. Not to mention the owner of the school was a client of mine and I felt like I was now at risk of loose his business. It got worse. The pressure as well as the miscommunications with the flight school were growing more and more, putting me in a place where now I felt judged and even blamed. It was far less than ideal.
Deena and I were a team. I have to hand it to her. Instead of this being a horrible vacation, it was a mission to accomplish. She was in it with me every step of the way and never let on that it was in any way a disruption to what should have been a relaxing vacation. I was so grateful yet I couldn’t help feeling like it was my fault and I just wished it would get resolved quickly. Pressure makes you impatient and impatience should be an immediate disqualification from being allowed to fly.
Deena and I were tracking ForeFlight like it was as heart rate monitor. I’m sure she was also trying to relieve my stress and we were again hoping for some small window in the weather to make it back home. We didn’t see one. We decided to go to the airport to at least gas up and be fully prepared for a very early flight the next morning as the weather was predicted to be clear by then.
Up early looking at weather, out by 6:30am, returned the car, pre-flighted, and ready on the tarmac by 7:30am. Go or No go? Though there were clouds and rain, it was VFR at both arriving and departing airports but low IFR in route. Looking at the radar in ForeFlight I thought the clouds were all low and so we could fly high and land safely in HNL. It seemed like a solid plan, and I felt confident. Both Deena and I looked at each other knowing that there was still risk involved, but our drive to get home was also there. Fortunately, a Piper pilot rolled in moments later, a God moment I’d say, and we decided to get a PIREP from him. “Absolutely, 100% an IFR day ladies. I would definitely not go unless you were Instrument rated. Cloud ceilings are at 9,000”. Well that took care of that. We were grounded. Grounded but with nowhere to go. No car, no hotel, so we decided to hang out to see if the weather would pass. We wore down both our iPads and iPhones and spent almost 8 hours sitting in our plane as there was no indoor spaces available at the airport unless you had a ticket. On again and off again, we kept trying to see windows of opportunity where there weren’t any. There wasn’t much time left in the day. Both Deena and I were at our limits. Deena was also feeling sick and at this point looked miserable. I can’t describe just how much pressure I felt at this point… much like a pressure cooker. Oh and I forgot to mention, it happens that this weekend was the busiest weekend of the year on the Big Island and every single hotel room was sold out. So if we did not fly home now, we might be camping out in the plane.