Sunday, September 10, 2006


Hazy Days of Summer

Summer is not a good time for recreational pilots in Atlanta. From July through September, you have low ceilings every morning, and air-mass thunderstorms every afternoon. On those rare occasions where clouds and convective activity aren't problems, you have reduced visibility due to haze.

I'm looking out my window right now, and the sky is white. The whiteness isn't due to clouds; it's the haze. So it looks like this will be yet another summer weekend without a flight.

I could fly if I really wanted to. The reported visibilities at nearby airports range from 4 miles to 7 miles. I've flown in 4-mile and 5-mile visibility before. It's not dangerous, but it's just not much fun.

What's it like, non-pilots may be asking? It seems like one is flying in the middle of a bright fog or mist. You can see the ground beneath you, but it fades away quickly. You are constantly worried that another airplane will suddenly appear in your flight path. (You are constantly worried about that in good visibility too, but the worry is a little more intense in poor visibility.)

I once flew with my flight instructor in three-mile visibility, which is the legal minimum for VFR flight. That was tricky. I was flying in familiar territory, but if I'd lost my radio-navigation equipment, I may not have been able to find my way home without assistance.

In a month or so, visibilities should start getting better, so I hope to be flying more frequently. I just hope I still know how.

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