In March 2011, after seven years of flying, I felt on top of my game like never before. With about 600 total hours and 100 in my current aircraft, I had made it past the days of self-doubt. Since earning my instrument rating a year earlier, I also had begun flying extensive, coast-to-coast business trips—accumulating confidence and some experience with all the weather, regional variations and improvising that come with being a true pilot.
Did I say that I had picked up confidence? Scratch that: I had picked up arrogance, never a good passenger in the cockpit. So it was that I arrived at one of my scariest weather encounters at the tail end of a weeklong trip. It had started in Northern California with stops in Arizona, Houston and Memphis. Now, I was heading home.