If you don't venture on sullen skies,
You never come to sunkissed valleys.
If your palms have never been moist,
Your heart has never thrilled.
If you have never been afraid,
You have never been courageous.
Gill Robb Wilson,
The Airman’s World
When my sister Mary and I started flying, we learned to check aviation weather by stopping at a little room off the terminal building lobby at Lunken Airport where a teletype machine spewed out reams of yellow paper with sequence reports and forecasts. Art and Bill, the “meteorologists,” could read and interpret all the funny-looking codes and abbreviations, and they were amazingly adept at forecasting local weather. “Amazingly” because Art and Bill were actually the building maintenance men who mopped and cleaned the old Work Progress Administration-era building and did basic plumbing and electric repairs. Later on, a Flight Service Station moved into a wing of the building and the little room was relegated to a storage area, but I’ll go to my grave seeing that teletype machine and hearing the “dit-dah-dit-dit, dah-dit-dah, dit-dah” from a monitor, signaling that the LKA low frequency beacon was still on the air. Not too many years before that beacon had been the Lunken Range Station, one of those four-course radio ranges that were the primary navigation aids in the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s.
Even into the ’60s, it was common for the old pros who flew the “big stuff” — corporate Twin Beeches, DC-3s, Lodestars, Martins and Queen Airs — to call the tower “inbound over the range.” And that sounded so damn cool I was determined to do the same thing in Ercoupe N341 even though the only radio we had was a Narco whistle-stop VHF receiver. So Mary and I flew around Indian Hill, northeast of the airport, until we spied the distinctive broadcast station — four towers in a square with a small concrete building in the center. From then on, regardless of where we’d been or in what direction, we’d divert to fly in from the northeast so we could report “the range inbound” to Lunken Tower.
But back to weather ...
In the summertime, fog and convective activity are the big issues, and in the Ohio River valley the question is usually “How long will it be after the ground fog burns off before the thunderstorms start forming?” My freight dog and old Lake Central DC-3 pals have awesome tales about flying “thunderstorm alley” over the Allegheny Mountains. Military AT-6 and C-47 pilot manuals have some interesting and curious guidance on “Flight in Turbulence and Thunderstorms.”