TO: VFR Pilots
FROM: Bill Swart
WHAT I LEARNED ACCIDENTALLY ABOUT FLYING
On an attempted flight from Michigan to Orlando I was flying into
Knoxville in the worst haze I had seen in my 600 hours. I could see the
expressway I was following, and forward visibility was VFR-Legal.
Following the expressway, I would not expect a mountain to appear in the
The fairly short forward visibility made me nervous, even more so when a
mountain appeared off the right wing. So I climbed, told the Knoxville
tower that I couldn’t see the airport, and the calm and beloved
controller vectored me to the runway. I was VFR-Legal at all times, but
VFR-Dumb. There could have been a tunnel on the expressway, or an
unusually sharp curve around a peak.
But, so far, so good. The next day it appeared that the weather, I’ve heard it
called a “Confederate front," would not let me go on to
Florida for several days, so I decided to return to Michigan. The
ceiling was VFR-OK over Knoxville. Haze was reported immediately North
of Knoxville, with clear sky from there on.
It seemed sensible to fly through a little haze to get into the
severe-clear a few miles North. So I took off, climbed to 2,000 feet
R&R (between my rear & the ridges), and turned North into that VFR-Legal
haze. I could see the trees. OK, it should be turning clear soon.
But then somebody turned a fire hose on the windshield. No lightning,
no thunder, just frog-strangling rain. Extremely nervous now (read
scared witless), I did a passable job on the instruments, made a shallow
180 to get out of it, flew East into clear air, and turned North for a
clear flight to Michigan. Until that
haze-turned-to-clouds-turned-to-rain, I was VFR-Legal, and VFR-Dumb.
That could have been thunder & lightning and a busted airplane.
The FAA should establish a new rating, “VFR-D,” for flying in
barely-VFR-Legal-In-Haze. To other VFR-only pilots, I offer this
advice: (1) Spend a good amount of time practicing instrument flying
under the hood with a safety pilot. I had. (2) Don’t fly VFR-D. If
you can’t see five or ten miles ahead, land someplace and read the book
you brought along, or watch the soaps, until you can see that far.
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