During my working career, I had six branch offices reporting to me, one in Illinois and others in southern Indiana. I used my Cessna 182RG to make frequent visits to each of those locations. Whenever one of my branches set a new monthly sales record, we would celebrate. I would order a large congratulatory sheet cake, buy a case of champagne, put on a tuxedo, and then fly to that location where I’d cook hamburgers on a grill.

Our branch in Vincennes, Indiana, was a record setter one June. I still remember the quizzical look on the lineman’s face at the airport when he saw this tuxedoed pilot toting a cake and Champagne climbing into the pilot’s seat to taxi out for departure.

Vincennes was only a short flight from my hometown airport so with nothing more than a quick glance at the partly cloudy sky, I took off. However, I had not gone more than half the distance when I encountered a solid overcast. Contacting Air Traffic Control (ATC), I filed an in-flight instrument flight plan and started receiving immediate vectors to avoid storm cells directly in my path.

It was too late. Soon my airplane was being thrown about, gaining and losing 1,000 feet of altitude first in one direction and then in another. ATC warned me I would be in the storm for another 15 miles. The challenge when being slammed about was to let the turbulence take you rather than fight the forces and risk doing structural damage.

It was after several minutes of that wild, tossing mayhem that I began laughing. It occurred to me that if I was to end up cashed in some farmer’s field, the discovery of a formally dressed pilot, covered in cake frosting, and soaked in champagne was going to be a humorous sight greeting the emergency responders. What a way to go!

I’m pleased to report the celebration came off as scheduled with nothing the worse for wear other than an extra loud pop when uncorking the champagne bottles.

3 thoughts on “Thunderstorms

  1. Jim, I think the best solution would have been to uncork that bottle in the midst of all that turbulence and take a few good slugs of champagne. A piece of cake for energy might have helped, also. Good trip!

  2. Love this story, especially having lived in Evansville so close to Vincennes and knowing of unexpected weather possibilities. What I’m wondering is how the beautifully decorated cake fared? Did it slide around or stay in one piece?!

  3. Wonderful story — and a metaphor? Loved the image of you in a tux riding it out!

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