Almost rising from my own ashes

By Phil Plait | December 14, 2008 10:34 am

Well, I’m back from my excursion to Phoenix, which was totally fun; I was part of a TV documentary shoot and I’ll be posting videos and pix eventually. The only bad parts were not getting a chance to hang out with my friends Evo and Sheila (wrapping the shoot at 8:30 p.m. and having a 6:40 a.m. call time for the next morning puts a damper on the carousing), and the horrendous turbulence on the way home. I have been in bad turbulence before, but this was the first time I was seriously wondering if this Might Be It. We dive bombed a half dozen times, and got seriously tossed around.

But I made it. I’m home, there’s a beautiful coating of delicate snow on the ground, the Sun is struggling to break through, and I have a bazillion things to get done today. So I’ll leave you for now with the podcast of the interview I did with Little Atoms. Here’s the web page, and here’s the direct link to the MP3 download.

Comments (23)

  1. manda

    Glad of course it was not IT! Happy to be home even if hectic.

    Happy Holidays.

  2. IVAN3MAN

    Dr. Phil Plait:

    … and the horrendous turbulence on the way home. I have been in bad turbulence before, but this was the first time I was seriously wondering if this Might Be It. We dive bombed a half dozen times, and got seriously tossed around.

    So, was it ‘brown trousers’ for some people on that flight? :-)

  3. Look forward to the postings about this. Skeptologists? Nah, probably something else, but cool nonetheless.

    As an aviator, turbulence is starting to be a non-event for me. Remember, it’s the take off and landing phases where the “Might Be It” events happen. If you were at altitude, I wouldn’t worry. Probably mountain wave turbulence anyway. ;)

  4. Larian, it was on our decent. In fact, the severe drops were when we were only a few thousand feet up and coming in to Denver. The drive home was very windy, and I slammed into two fairly large (2+ feet across) tumbleweeds moving at speed, too.

  5. serenity

    Great interview!
    The very ending about the universe ending made me think about a (very famous) sci-fi short story I read recently: Isaac Asimov’s “The Last Question”. If you haven’t read it, google it and do so!

  6. Oh, not THAT makes it “interesting”. We used to joke that the ground has a pK of 1.0. Yeah, with the winds you guys are having, it probably was mountain wave then. I keep forgetting that you are right THERE so it will extend down to near the ground. Well, GLAD to have you in one piece and home safe and sound (I guess the same can’t be said for the tumbleweeds).

  7. EDIT TO ADD: not=now in the second word of the previous post… I are teh sux at typing.

  8. You got a ten hour turnaround on your shoot? I’m jealous.

    I don’t remember the last time I had that many hours on a non-weekend wrap.

  9. Glad you got back on Earth safe & sound Phil .

    When I read your seriously wondering if this Might Be It I thought..
    Most people at that moment think .. I should have lived my life better and feel they
    didn’t get to live the way they wanted and think if I live thru this i’m going to change my life and enjoy it better . But you could say you led an interesting life! Got to do some amazing amazing things like work on hubble, educate and inspire people to enjoy astronomy and had adventurous times like Galapagos , you sat in a crater !!
    And your dragon con & Tam meetings you have fun at .

    And people enjoy your life as much as you do ! :)

  10. I know corny but … i was out most of the night exploring with my telescope andI need some coffee :) ~

  11. my post didn’t get published I was just commenting about so here it is ..
    if it showed up twice sowwy .

    Glad you got back on Earth safe & sound Phil .

    When I read your seriously wondering if this Might Be It I thought..
    Most people at that moment think .. I should have lived my life better and feel they
    didn’t get to live the way they wanted and think if I live thru this i’m going to change my life and enjoy it better . But you could say you led an interesting life! Got to do some amazing amazing things like work on hubble, educate and inspire people to enjoy astronomy and had adventurous times like Galapagos , you sat in a crater !!
    And your dragon con & Tam meetings you have fun at .

    And people enjoy your life as much as you do ! :)

  12. Gary Ansorge

    Phil:
    I have flown at least a quarter million miles in my life and(usually) loved it however,,,I once flew to a Calif. skii resort easily accessible only by light plane(a 28 passenger turbo-prop, as I recall). We had to fly between the mountain passes. I, being the brave, macho type, opted to sit in the rear of the plane,,,
    I’m just glad I’m NOT religious, because I would likely have signed over the souls of my children to some god half way thru the flight,,,WORST TURBULENCE EVER!!!
    I will say it totally eliminated my edge anxiety. Now I can stand on the edge of the Grand Canyon, look down and think,”AH! This doesn’t even compare to that flight,,,”

    Glad to see you made it home intact.

    Gary 7

  13. Well, I’m back from my excursion to Phoenix, which was totally fun;

    Could you at least have brushed and scraped off the solar panels and tilted it towards the sun while you were there??? :)

  14. The only time I’ve ever done a positive stress test on a seatbelt was on descent into Atlanta Hartsfield a few years ago. There are frequent thunderstorm fronts that move through, and on descent you have no choice but to plow through them. Thank the cosmos for Atavan!

    After we were on the ground, I thanked the pilot for an “interesting” flight. He said, “Yeah, it always gets a little rough when I go off the road like that…”

    - Jack

  15. Gary Ansorge Says: “I once flew to a Calif. ski resort easily accessible only by light plane(a 28 passenger turbo-prop, as I recall).”

    A Saab SF-340 perhaps? A great little airplane, but not the smoothest thing in the sky. I flew one on a connection from Dallas to Waco in summer with little “popcorn cumulus” dotting the landscape. Not really scary, except for my lunch which almost escaped my esophagus.

    For small planes my favorite is the Candadaire series of commuter jets. Faster than the big planes and smoother, too, if there’s no turbulence. If there is, the ride motions are, shall we say, abrupt.

    - Jack

  16. Welcome home Phil! Glad you made it safe and sound.

    Every time I’ve flown into Denver the turbulence was extremely bad. Once was on a 777 and we got tossed around like a tin can.

  17. Samuel

    You were great on SGU! I hope you come back soon!

  18. Ooh, sounds like a fun flight ^_^

    And I have to admit – it did take me a moment to remember that, oh yeah, there’s a city called Phoenix – my first thought was that you had taken a quick jaunt to the Martian polar regions *grin*

    (Which is a bit dumb, as Phoenix is one of the three American cities I’ve actually been to! (Flagstaff isn’t a city. Too titchy.) Way to go, self.)

  19. eyesoars

    Larian, it was on our decent. In fact, the severe drops were when we were only a few thousand feet up and coming in to Denver. The drive home was very windy, and I slammed into two fairly large (2+ feet across) tumbleweeds moving at speed, too.

    Well, I’m glad it wasn’t during your indecent. Do they have special aircraft sections for this now?

    Sounds like typical front-range turbulence. Particularly when the winds aloft are strong and from the west or north-west (the prevailing direction), the turbulence on the lee side of the Rockies can be pretty amazing. Happily, it also makes for awesome soaring (> 30,000′ altitude in a glider is amazing), but the rotor turbulence underneath can be pretty nasty.

  20. Gary Ansorge

    Jack:I have no idea what type of aircraft it was,(it was 25 years ago) but it was Mammoth Skii resort we were flying into. Next time, I’ll drive,,,

    Gary &

  21. Yeah, I’ve been on a Saab 340. Didn’t have the stabilizers though; tended to shake.

    But if we’re in fun with aerodynamics mode, there was this one time? Coming in to O’Hare? On United, so I had the tower audio to keep me company. From Denver, I think, though Denver had been fine. In a 757, right behind UA 881 heavy from Tokyo. Felt like an unusual amount of wake turbulence to me, until about 100 feet up, when we decided to go around. Turns out 881 was the last flight to land on runway 10 that morning. I think we finally ended up on 22R.

    You haven’t lived until you’ve enjoyed the performance of an ATC when the wind does a 180 shift at a place like O’Hare. A new call every 20 seconds! “Turn right heading 110, climb to 1500.” “Turn right heading 220, climb to 3000.” “Turn left heading 170, climb to 7000.” “Turn left heading 80.”…

    Not really all that much turbulence, but the thought of all that traffic suddenly having to be rearranged completely was a bit unnerving. Oh, and that’s when I had to revise my estimate of how long I would last as an ATC, from 15 minutes down to about 5.

  22. Yoeman

    The worst flight I was ever on landed at O’Hare, in a thunderstorm. I don’t get airsick, but came close that time, on of the hardest landings too, fun stuff.

  23. Lorne Townend

    Hey Phil,

    Happy new year !

    Glad to hear you made it back in one piece. I had some bad turbulence going back to the UK. Thanks for your excellent contribution to the documentary. Just looking back through the rushes today for the first time -all looking pretty good at this stage.

    Will let you know about the final outcome.

    Cheers,

    Lorne

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