Flying Training

Lesson 59: Training Area

Sunday 30 March 2008, 6.30am in Citabria VH-MWY

Weather: early morning fog. Wind calm.

Woke at 5am. Click to enlarge Pitch-black outside, cold and calm. By 6.30am I was at the airport, looking at the runway lights shining through a thin layer of mist. It didn't look as though it would affect flying operations. The windsock hung limp in the lights, and it appeared to be just a matter of waiting for sufficient daylight to take off.

I was about to be shown a valuable meteorological lesson. Even before the sun appeared above the horizon, imperceptble breaths of wind were stirring up the layer of cold air next to the ground, mixing it with slightly warmer, more moisture-laden air above. This had the effect of thickening the mist until it began to seriously reduce the visibility over the runways.

Click to enlarge Click to enlarge So, with other pilots, I waited until the sun appeared, and the mist started to clear slightly. The visibility was better on runway 10, so at around quarter past seven I lined up and took off. As the speed increased the mist seemed to thicken, but I was soon airborne and climbing above it.

Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge

The photos say it all as I circled around to the west and headed out towards The Oaks. The low-lying, grassy areas are completely submerged in mist, while the wooded areas are relatively clear. The mist is thickest over the water, so each dam has its own cloud, and the winding path of the river shows up clearly.

As I approached the mountains the ground elevation increased and the mist cleared. I passed above and to the right of a hot air balloon on its way back to Camden, and leaving The Oaks to the left, turned and headed north. I didn't stray too far from the airfield, as I was conscious that my booked time Click to enlarge Click to enlarge finished at 8 o'clock.

This was my second lesson, though: the weather is no respecter of booking times. Listening out on the CTAF I determined that other pilots were using runway 06, and I made a circuit, only to see most of the runway disappear in the mist as I was on final. So I called 'going around' and circled back to look at runway 10. It was no better, and Jim called up on the radio to suggest that I simply stay up for another ten minutes.

Click to enlarge Keep flying? Not a problem. So I took advantage of the extra time to enjoy the views out over the mountains, and the misty line of the river. When I returned to the airport runway 06 was still obscured, but 10 was clear, so I landed there and taxiied back. You can see the last of the mist behind the parked aircraft in the photos below.

Click to enlarge Click to enlarge

The events of the day gave me a renewed respect for the weather conditions, and I vowed to wait a little longer the next time there was early morning mist around, to make sure it really was clearing.

Obviously in an extreme situation where a landing at Camden was impossible due to mist, it would be possible to land at The Oaks or Bankstown. A good reason for carrying the ERSA on every flight (a legal requirement) and for completing the PPL.