Photo of snowy Sussex woodland trail Photo of snowy Sussex woodland trail

EasyJet Calms Orographic Storms

EasyJet Captain Darryl Letch

My thanks to all the team at the Mosto Festival in Italy for organising such a fun event based around the theme of water. I gave my talk – with a lot of help from a translator – on the signs we can all read in water.

On my easyJet flight back from Italy, there was a delay.

We boarded on time, but then the Captain, Darryl Letch, announced that there would be a delay for reasons outside his control. (Credit to Darryl, he stepped out of the cockpit and told us the bad news to our faces – a nice touch that is rare these days. It was appreciated by everyone, I didn’t hear a grumble after that.)

There were bands of cumulonimbus – storm clouds – on the north side of the Pyrenees and over the Alps.

We could route round the storms, but since all the other air traffic was doing the same it had led to congestion in the bands of airspace either side of the mountains and this had led to the delay. We’d be on the ground for a little over an hour. Darryl generously said that we were welcome to come and speak to him if we’d like to know more.

I have no idea if he meant it, but I did want to know more and so headed to the front of the aircraft to quiz him.

Darryl explained that the storms were triggered by ‘orographic lift’ – when air is forced to rise after meeting higher ground. When the air is already warm, moist and unstable, this triggers storms.

Darryl showed me the aviation ‘Significant Weather’ chart on his tablet (it was all paper the last time I used one of those in earnest). The storms perfectly reflected the high ground.

A ‘significant weather’ chart for flight planning

After I stopped bothering the crew and sat down, some youngsters got a tour of the cockpit.

Congratulations Darryl and easyJet for turning a negative into a positive by your friendly, professional approach.

When I got home, I sent Darryl a signed and dedicated copy of The Secret World of Weather as a thank you.

I have now added 17 photos and 5 videos of the best signs from this trip to Italy to The Collection, including the best clues from my walks in the hills and those I saw from the aircraft.

Unstable air rises over high ground
Speaking at Festival Mosto

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