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Flying VFR in Haze - remaining legal.

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Flying VFR in Haze - remaining legal.

Old 4th Sep 2017, 20:51
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There are a few key techniques that I use at low level to ensure that I am not caught out by poor weather and that I have a plan to action in the worst case should I find myself out of VMC limits close to granite.

The only true way to judge the visibility at low level in any given location is to compare the current vis to known distances on a map. It takes a considerable amount of experience to eyeball the weather and make sound judgement on the actual conditions, especially when you include factors such as 'press-on-itis' i.e convincing yourself the weather is fit to achieve the task. I think that a paper map is very useful in this situation and military pilots always fly with one at low level, although they may not always use it (Good weather and moving map). Learn at your cruise speeds how far on a map 5km is, it might be the span of a finger or half the length of your pen etc. When you fly over a known feature, use this measurement to find a feature 5km away and look for it. Do this on each of your trips and you will soon find yourself estimating ranges with increased accuracy.

The keys to not being caught out at low level in my opinion and from experience of flying fast jets at low level are the following (based on having an ability to instrument fly)-

1) Brief the route:

What is the forecast weather? What is the terrain doing over the route? Rising terrain increases chances of being forced in to cloud. Go through each leg and look at the what ifs? 'Poor weather on the nose on leg 2, low ground to the east, likely to have better conditions, however it is hard walled with controlled airspace.' Use this technique around you whole route, literally sit and talk it through with your passenger of fellow pilot. Think about your worst case options so that when you get there and the radios are busy you have already considered the likely choke points and pitfalls. Time spent on recce is seldom wasted!

2) Know the safety altitude and if it is above the base of controlled airspace for each leg:

The ideal options in poor weather should be to step around, turn around and finally if caught out accept it and carry out a low level abort to a safe altitude. Once you make the decision that the weather is unfit and you cannot turn around or step around the weather then level the wings transfer to instruments, forget EVERYTHING else and get yourself straight and level above safety altitude. I would much rather have to apologies on the telephone to an ATC agency for an infringement then to find myself in the side of a hill due to not wanting to abort into controlled airspace, neither situation ideal but one is certainly better than the other.


There are many other considerations to think about given the conditions of the day and what you are trying to do but always at the back of your mind must be the key point that: If you inadvertently find yourself in cloud below safety altitude your primary focus MUST be to get above safety altitude at all costs.

I offer my humble opinion as somebody with limited GA experience but enough low level experience through military flying to hopefully offer some food for thought. Like with most forms of flying it is a constant work cycle and current weather should be featuring at every turn of the wheel.

Cheers,

Mr Vice.
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Old 4th Sep 2017, 22:21
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Originally Posted by Mr. Vice
2) Know the safety altitude and if it is above the base of controlled airspace for each leg:

The ideal options in poor weather should be to step around, turn around and finally if caught out accept it and carry out a low level abort to a safe altitude. Once you make the decision that the weather is unfit and you cannot turn around or step around the weather then level the wings transfer to instruments, forget EVERYTHING else and get yourself straight and level above safety altitude. I would much rather have to apologies on the telephone to an ATC agency for an infringement then to find myself in the side of a hill due to not wanting to abort into controlled airspace, neither situation ideal but one is certainly better than the other.
Very good point. The decision of transferring to instruments and climbing into IMC is a tough one but in some cases the only one. The question then would be if the pilot would be competent of flying in IMC for the first time and in an already tense situation.

Often times, the VFR/GA pilot gets caught in trouble because of a lack of assertiveness. I've read accident reports that involve a Controller telling a GA pilot off by saying something like "Unless it is an emergency, you can't do this or that", replied by "Uhhhm, okay, sorry to bother, I'm leaving your airspace, bye" and then the guy goes to crash somewhere else. The guy didn't want to admit he was in an emergency for whatever reason, pride, embarrassment, whatever, but it cost him his life.

VFR into IMC is an emergency situation. It is appropriate to declare an emergency, to squawk 7700 and all the drill. Climb into CAS if you need to. Don't "request", just "inform" of what you're doing. They will separate the IFR guys from you.
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Old 5th Sep 2017, 17:52
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I've happily flown air experience flights in a microlight (55kt) in 4,000m haze but overcast at about 2,000ft hence no sun effect so it was uniform all round. All depends what speed you are doing.
Chevron,
We have all flown in conditions when it was a bit 'iffy' to say the least, and most of us will have driven a car at 35mph in a 30mph limit and felt we were perfectly safe.
I think the question was about what is legally correct rather than what the rest of us would be comfortable with (or what we might have done at times).
I would also suggest that for someone on low hours in a GA aircraft it would be very good practice not to take risks in low visibility, despite the fact that all us old 'uns claim to have done so.
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Old 11th Sep 2017, 12:02
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I just came back to this thread as the OP and see there has been some very useful and informative comments.

My initial post was whether I was in 'legal viz' as it was my flight in Haze and 'into sun' and I had no experience of 'eye balling' how far 5km to 8km looks like mid air.

I certainly wouldn't want to fly in the conditions in that video! Not until I have an IR at least or IMC.

I felt safe and used all the information available to me including weather reports, metars, tafs etc and decided to do the flight and did indeed mitigate any risks by asking for a traffic service.

Im now experienced in this weather phenomena and flying 'into sun' which ha given me more confidence should I experience it next time.

I post on here to seek opinions, advise and fact find without pride and appreciate the responses.

Thanks All!
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Old 11th Sep 2017, 14:10
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Scoobster.
You'll do ok. Estimating distance from the air isn't easy, a bit of practice setting up a known distance between two landmarks, say, five miles apart and see what the view looks like at various heights.
All very well for some of us when it only costs the price of 18 litres mogas an hour, prob a pain when you've hired it at 160 hr to go somewhere.
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Old 11th Sep 2017, 15:25
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Originally Posted by Crash one
Scoobster.
You'll do ok. Estimating distance from the air isn't easy, a bit of practice setting up a known distance between two landmarks, say, five miles apart and see what the view looks like at various heights.
All very well for some of us when it only costs the price of 18 litres mogas an hour, prob a pain when you've hired it at 160 hr to go somewhere.
18 litres Mogas.. I am in envy of that!

More the fool me I guess hiring for 160 an hour and need to look at flying something else that doesn't burn my wallet. Lol.

Wish I knew what!
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Old 11th Sep 2017, 15:45
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Originally Posted by Central Scrutinizer
Minute 5 in this video, I'd say this is marginal VMC:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UCzvEZOR7t0
It may look uncomfortable, but I seriously doubt it already qualifies as marginal...
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Old 11th Sep 2017, 17:05
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Originally Posted by Scoobster
18 litres Mogas.. I am in envy of that!

More the fool me I guess hiring for 160 an hour and need to look at flying something else that doesn't burn my wallet. Lol.

Wish I knew what!
I'm presuming you are aware of the LAA system?
My Emeraude cost me 16k ten yrs ago, prob about the same or a bit less today.
Hangarage dependent on geography.
DIY maintenance signed off by a grown up.
You do have to consider the possibility of a big bill (engine) but budget for that.
Still cheap as chips compared to the rental scene.
Sell it when you've finished with it.
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