Position: 15 miles west of AGENT intersection
Altitude: 37,000 feet
The air is, literally, crackling with electricity. The co-pilot and I are amazed at the light show coming from the monstrous storms beginning forty miles north of our position. It is, after all, the first (full) day of spring.
It has been a long day, beginning this morning in the City of Angels. We have been flying hard and fast, changing flight attendants and airplanes every time we go through a hub. The co-pilot and I have been taking turns pre-flighting while the other searches for real coffee and edible food. Fifty more minutes and we will be in Chicago's airspace lining up to land in the 40 mph (34 kts) crosswinds. The co-pilot is flying this leg and has good crosswind skills, so it should be a non-event. One hundred miles ago, my dispatcher sent an email to report that the winds are blowing from the west at 80 mph (69 kts) 1,000 feet above the ground at O'hare. That is interesting...
Even though, we are 40 miles south of the storms, the lightening is illuminating the inside of the flightdeck like a strobe light. The display of energy is very impressive. I remember fighting these types of storms with no radar, no performance, and no miraculous whiz bang flight technology. Wow, how times have changed!
I talked to the three flight attendants via conference call and told them what to expect at O'hare and to prepare the cabin for a turbulent landing. I will give the passengers a little pep talk in a few minutes.
For now, though, we are watching the Dragon. The individual cells are trading punches with huge, thick, horizontal strokes of lightening emanating from the tops above 30,000 feet. I have been struck by lightening several times in an airliner with minimal damage, but not by bolts like we are watching sizzling between cells. There would be big problems after being struck by such a bolt, especially in an electric jet.
Time to stir the pot a little... I look over at the co-pilot and say, "Hey Slick, you think you can handle the wind at O'hare?"