Hazy Days

The weather has changed. Today was hot and hazy. All of my solo flights to date have been in cool clear weather, but when spring and summer come, the haze comes with it. I remember my first several lessons and having trouble seeing the horizon. I was expecting to have the same trouble, but now that I’ve seen enough clear horizons, it wasn’t that difficult to see.

It was hot enough to be a little uncomfortable, but not a distraction. There is no A/C on the plane, but there are air vents that will blow outside air inside. The temperature drops significantly as altitude increases. As I write this it’s 40°F outside. At 3000 feet above us, it’s closer to 21°F. A flight at 30,000 feet would experience -50°F temperatures. Burr.

Local weather stations were reporting greater than 10 miles visibility, but it looked more like 7 miles to me. I could barely see past the 3M plant (which is 6 miles away) when I was over the airport. Wind was reporting calm, and it was, but it was a bumpy ride.

After hearing from one of the instructors that it wasn’t too pleasant, I decided to take a lap or two in the pattern to see if it was worth trying to practice. I managed 5 landings, none of the smooth, but all of them acceptable.

I decided conditions were good enough to head to the practice area. I worked on a couple stalls, Vmc, and steep turns. The steep turns were a mess; I couldn’t hold altitude or airspeed well at all, but I think it’s because I was rushing or distracted by the haze. Stall recoveries went fine, but I couldn’t get the plane to fully stall on the power on stall. I pulled back as far as I could, but it just wouldn’t break.

Not having experienced being in the practice area solo without being able to see the cooling tower to guide me back to the airport, I decided to play it safe and stay near known landmarks… namely the 3M plant. Even that close, I lost sight of the airport. I had my charts and knew what I needed to know to get back via VORs if I lost sight of the landmarks.

After not much time in the practice area, I headed back. The winds had changed enough to warrant a change in runway, so I had to cross over to get in the pattern for runway 21. There was another plane in the pattern, so I crossed over above pattern altitude and turned around to enter on the 45. No problems; my landing was as good/bad as the other. I stayed in the pattern for a couple more; 8 total for the day.

Things are much different when visibility is limited; not nearly as nice for site seeing.

1.3 hours solo brings me to 51.7 total