1Jan99                                             HOME
TO: VFR Pilots
FROM: Bill Swart
RE: VFR-D
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 windshield.

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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Mailbox@billswart.com