White Horse Beach, Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

White Horse Beach, Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA
White Horse Beach, Manomet, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Goodbye Albuquerque - Flying from ABQ to ORD, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA

 The arid desert climate of Albuquerque, New Mexico, briefly gives way to some cropland and the green of the cottonwoods that line the Rio Grande south of town.  I am flying from the Albuquerque International Sunport in Albuquerque, enroute to Chicago O'Hare airport in Illinois on my way back to Boston, Massachusetts. I don't normally sit in a window seat because the curvature of the fuselage doesn't give me enough headroom - I prefer the aisle.  This was one of those regional jets with only one seat on my side of the aisle so I got to see out the window.  What a treat! 

This suburban residential area just to the west of the river exhibits a distinct lack of flora. The desert rainfall here averages about 9 inches a year and doesn't create much visible flora.

The flight continues over northern New Mexico and southern Colorado - I am struck by this perfectly straight segment of road in the desert 30,000 feet below  ( I colored it in with gray to make it more visible in the photo). My first surprise was, "why is that one segment so straight?" My second surprise was, "why is there a road there in the first place?"  

The desert areas gave way to the Rocky Mountains and in this image I cross the last snow-streaked peaks south of and approaching the Denver area. This is the most eastward escarpment of the Rockies - from here, the upper midwest begins to stretch eastward and tends toward flat farmland.

East of the Rockies, the air mass over the upper midwest states of Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois, has been breeding daily huge thunderstorms and occasional tornadoes.  The cumulus clouds start out gently enough but.....

.....grow and grow and grow........

.....until they explode skyward and create the anvil shaped head, one of the visual manifestations of a thunderstorm. The pilot bobbed and weaved us through the towering field of these building giants.  The white haired man in the seat in front of me ordered and drank two vodkas and a Bailey's.  I'm not sure if he was nervous or just felt like getting hammered. It was bumpy but not that bad.

As I approach the Chicago suburbs on descent to landing, the difference between a location with 9 inches of rain annually like Albuquerque and 36 inches of rain is glaringly obvious. Chicago, 1400 miles northeast of my starting point in Albuquerque,  is another world by comparison.

 The presence of  visible lightning on the airport from a nearby thunderstorm required all ramp personnel to move into shelter so we taxied in long ovals for a while before we could park and unload - a long while.  The airport's schedule had been dealt a serious blow by the weather - many flights were canceled and thousands of passengers had their travel plan disrupted to varying degrees.  My next flight segment got canceled and so did the next two scheduled.  I eventually got to Boston at 3:45am the next morning - and that's not a complaint -  I got there safe and sound, always the preferred outcome.  Air transportation continues to be a magical and remarkable capability of our modern age, but, nature still has the final say in safety - and that's as it should be.  So many people and so much technical equipment work together in an extraordinary way to produce such a great air transportation system, it reminds me what a pleasure it was to spend my professional career involved daily with many of the men and women who make it all work safely every day.


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