National Weather Center Tour - 14 September 2018

After going through several registration iterations, changes in the available planes, and worrying about the weather patterns throughout the week, the morning of Friday, September 14th dawned bright and sunny with a favorable weather forecast for most of the day. Eight hearty souls milled around the club hanger munching on sausage kolaches and donuts while the pilots readied the airplanes. The Archer was loaded up with four bodies and the other three bodies were used as ballast in Clarke's 182T. The Archer filed an IFR flight plan and Clarke went VFR with traffic advisories. We were wheels off the ground around 0900 and flew for an uneventful hour and a few minutes before landing at KOUN.

Ozzie's Diner is in the building adjacent to and north the control tower. Parking spots are conveniently located just a few feet from the door of the building. Ozzie's is not a very large place and you can tell by the tables outside of the restaurant and in the lobby that they get a fair amount of business. We sat down in time for the breakfast menu but were a bit early for those folks wanting lunch. The breakfast offerings were all good looking and reportedly very tasty. You sure couldn't beat the prices! Note - they are cash only with an ATM in the FBO if you get in a pinch. We sat there and visited long enough that the lunch menu became available. The 40+ folks (the median age is probably a bit higher but we don't want to insult anyone) were plenty full with breakfast but the young one in the group had a space available for a bowl of chili and some cornbread from the lunch menu! Impressive.

We stopped by the Airport Manager's office to say hello and to put a name to a face. She was very nice and gave us some good tips during the planning stages regarding transportation options. She was kind enough to pass out luggage tags from her goody bag for everyone. We coordinated with Cruise Aviation in an attempt to secure the courtesy car for the afternoon but unfortunately the person before us had not returned it in time for us to take it at noon. We secured two Uber rides and headed down to the National Weather Center.

The tour started around 1300 with about thirty folks. Our tour guide is a meteorologist who is working for the NWC and graduated from OU. He had an excellent tour guide voice and was very knowledgeable about the products, services, and operations of the NWC. We looked around at some the vehicles in the fleet including a couple of converted ambulances, and radar platform, and phased array radar platform, and some vehicles outfitted with instrumentation packages. Two of the vans in the fleet were being rented and sustained hail damage on one of the trips. They own them because it was cheaper to buy them to pay for the damages. The next stop was the local forecast offices for the Norman area. The offices were fairly sparsely staffed since it was a calm weather day and since a lot of folks had been temporarily assigned to help with Hurricane Florence. Lots of good information about local forecast, NOAA Weather radio, watches and warnings. We stopped in the hall to look at the Mesonet weather reporting system used in Oklahoma. They have a linked system of reporting stations all across the state which reports the basics such as wind, temperature, humidity, etc. The last set of offices we toured was the Storm Prediction Center for the entire US. In all of the offices they have a ton of displays showing all kinds of weather conditions.

The last stop was back on the first floor at the six foot diameter projection globe. They use four projectors to display a variety of images on the the globe. With a bit of video trickery, they are able to make it appear as if the globe is rotating but in fact it is the image that is being moved across the surface of the globe. They were able to show us several displays such as air currents and infrared images of storms over the entire planet. The infrared image showed Hurricane Florence being born of the west coast of Africa and making its way across the Atlantic to the US.

Another round of Uber rides got us back to KOUN and after consulting with the weather briefer and filing an IFR plane for the Archer we headed back around 1545. There was some weather in the area but with some altitude, a few turns, and some good timing, both planes were able to steer clear of any issues and get back to KGVT in about 1.5 hours. Love or DFW stopped accepting arrivals for a bit and the ADS-B Out stackup of planes east of the metroplex was impressive!

It was a good trip. The club has never been on that tour and as usual, the camaraderie was half the fun. KOUN is a nice facility if you are not an Aggie or a Longhorn, you get your money's worth at Ozzie's, and the NWC tour was informative and interesting.