A HOLY CRAP Moment in the Clouds (a bit long)


So there we were climbing to 6000' northbound from CRQ to LGB at night in our little 152. The forecast was for possible isolated embeded thunderstorms north of LAX (about 20-30nm north of our LGB, far enough away not to have to worry about them), and for broken to overcast skies south of LAX. I'm a wimp when it comes to thunderstorms, so I had called the FSS just before we left and told me about their level one returns and a couple of level twos far to the east. A PIREP for a guy who went our route 10 min earlier reported light turbulence and negative rain. Sounds good to me!

So... we takeoff in some light turbulence and head back home from CRQ. We went IMC around 3000' on climbout when BAM! turbulence hits. We're climbing at 1500fpm (a decent 1000fpm updraft) with a fair amount of bumps. The windshield flashes white and my instructor and I are like 'oh crap!'. I'm glued to the instruments keeping the wings as level as I can. The temp guage is showing 3*C passing 5000' for 6000'. We break out just under 6000' and look to our right. HUGE puffys are lit up by the full moon; displaying one of the most awesome things I've ever seen, complete with frequent lightening highlighting parts of the sky. This was definately unforecast. I give a pirep for the tops at 5700' and lightening to our right. Fifteen or so minutes later the whole thing's behind us and we're headed back home under clear skies, and I have to don the dreaded hood once again (the hood is NO fun after you've been in actual).

It was one fun and humbling night to say the least. We definately did NOT fly through the thunderstorm so don't get that impression. But we were close enough to it to get some decent updrafts and turbulence (in a 152, mind you). It was one of those flights that you learn from by asking those 'what if' questions... What if the storm had been along our route of flight? What if we went IMC just after takeoff and the storm had been on our route? What if the temperature had been just a little lower (the freezing level was FORECAST to be between 7000' - 10000')?

Anyways I just thought I'd share this... for anyone in the LA / OC area it was our only decent T-storm in a LOOOOONNNGGG time, ya couldn't miss it (Wednesday night for those of you who did). My drive home was to the south so I had the storm in front of me the whole way; I couldn't believe how close we'd been, but it was one of the best training flights I've ever had (probably THE best). It just goes to show you that the weather does what it wants, all reports are historical events, and all forcasts are chance.
Sounds like a good lesson. Just out of curiosity had a Convective Sigmet been issued for your area? It's true that you must always be careful when you're relying soley on forecasts to avoid cells, especially in actual where you can't identify them visually and they may be embedded.

My CFI and I got stranded on our long IFR x-c last summer after practically the entire state of texas unexpectedly went convective and stayed that way all night long. We ended up renting a room at the holiday inn 250 NM away from home. You never know when these things can sneak up on you......
No convective sigments had been issued. The forecast for isolated embeded was from the area forecast; off the top of my head there was an AIRMET for IFR and another one for mountain obscuration and that's it.
Wow Ed, sounds like quite an experience! I didn’t realize there was such a thing as an IFR rated 152… Perhaps just the FBO I use doesn’t have them.

Good report, thanks for sharing!