I was a trainee pilot, done with over 75 hours of flying. It was time to move on to the next and arguably the most exciting stage, the cross country—I could now fly as far as over 400 kilometers, soaring as high as 10,000 feet above ground from where the world is but an ant colony.
I was thrilled when my instructor told me that we’d be going for a four-hour-thirty-minute flight and that too into controlled airspace. I quickly did the essentials, grabbed some tuck and the next thing I knew, we were airborne. As we rose to 8500 feet, a host of clouds swam into view.
As simple as these wisps of vapour are, they make a vast difference in the weather and not the fun kind. As a trainee handling a Cessna for the first time, curiosity was the only thing piloting me, so naturally I couldn’t wait to enter the billowy blobs of cotton-candy fluff.
My instructor had other ideas. He insisted on avoiding the clouds. Now he’s a very skilled pilot, but I wondered if he was being overcautious. After all, how dangerous could an innocent white cloud be?
On our return leg, three hours into the flight, we found ourselves surrounded by clouds with no openings or diversions. My instructor braced himself as if he was going to fight a war. I on the other hand was the most calm and collected person on the planet, because as they say, ignorance truly is bliss.
For those who don’t know what it’s like, flying a Cessna into a cloud is the equivalent of a mosquito entering a room with fans on at full blast, as far as simple words go it’s not pleasant.
The moment we entered the cloud, turbulence hit. The aircraft began losing hundreds of feet in seconds and gaining just as many even faster!
There was sudden precipitation and we were thrown into a frenzy. It didn’t take me long to realise why I would never want to enter a cloud. Of course, I did not let my fears show because my instructor was already fighting hard to save us and distracting him would have been a bad idea. Trying to lighten the mood, I tried cracking some lame jokes, only to be told to keep my trap shut.
While I tried to remember which god favoured me and wondered how a cute cloud could betray me, my instructor miraculously found an opening and got us out. After a short moment of silence he gave me an I-told-you-so look, which I honestly thought was well deserved.
On our way back I had a lot to think about. My view of the clouds had changed forever—how mysterious and deceptive they could be, and yet so beautiful. They made me want to spend the rest of my days hovering around them, getting to know them closer. Which is what I continue to do…
Captain Anshul Rishiraj spoke to Kamna Rishiraj from Travel Secrets Magazine