It’s almost Spring on the eastern edge of the Empire. The grass surrounding the cracked pavement of the taxiway is greening and the tree line that runs along the airport access road is showing some signs of life as well. Despite the strong winds out of the west that whistled around the aircraft and jetway when we were parked at the gate 20 minutes ago, the air felt warm. I flip through to the Environmental Control System status page on the display in front of me and notice that we are actually blowing cold air into the cabin to cool it down instead of hot air to warm it up.
The airport has no control tower which means we need to coordinate our release for takeoff with an off field controller. Due to the geographic position of the airport, Washington Center, who controls the airspace here, doesn’t have radio coverage down to the ground. 30 minutes ago, on the way in to land, we actually lost radio contact with them just as we passed over the top of the airport at 2300 feet. Now, parked by the side of the runway waiting to go, we are working through a Flight Watch briefer sitting in a room somewhere in Raleigh, talking on the phone to Washington to get our release. Apparently there is a breakdown in communications somewhere and the Briefer calls us back to let us know he is working on it but Center can’t clear the airspace right now and that he’ll wait about 10 minutes and try again.
There’s not much we can do about the wait and as I go back to watching the trees bend in the wind I notice the western sky, obscured since our arrived by low laying scud being driven eastward, is rapidly darkening. The FO flips on his radar display and a line of weather materializes on the screen. We are parked facing north so we can only see the northwestern edge of it, but it appears as a very well defined red and yellow line running from the top of the display down and off the left hand side. I dig my phone out and power it back up. A moment later I have the Weather Channel app running and it is showing a very narrow band of yellow and red, matching the display on the aircraft radar, rapidly approaching.
Our routing lies initially to the south west and then due west towards Charlotte. If we launch now we will be forced to climb out, running parallel to this line of weather. Also, depending on when we actually get released by ATC we may be taking off right as it hits the field which, looking at the strength of the line on radar, is not something I want to do. I call the flight briefer back and let him know we are going to sit this one out until the weather passes over. Meanwhile the FO shuts down the engines. I make a PA to the cabin letting them know the situation and then call Dispatch who, somewhat surprisingly, agrees with my assessment. The busy work complete, I push my seat all the way back and wait for the show to begin.