Chicken Wings Classic – VFR on top
We thought we would throw in a classic strip again for a change. This one goes back to our roots of having very aviation specific jokes. We since have found ourselves walking a fine balance between not angering the early hardcore “Chicken Wings” supporters and at the same time attracting the aviation enthusiast who is getting, or thinking of getting into the world of aviation but doesn’t have the vocabulary built up yet. As for the accuracy of the depicted meteorological conditions, I have to admit that I have not seen ground fog quite like this before. But very close to it! Flying Frost Control for many years you can see how the cold air settles in the trees and you, in your helicopter, only a few feet above it, are completely fine.
One of the more recent, yet one of the weirdest experiences so far, was a night currency flight I did into Redmond, Oregon KRDM two years ago. We took off out of Bend in clear VFR conditions, then did a few touch and go’s in Prineville, and on the way back we were gonna do one touch & go in Redmond. Yet even though we flew around in VFR conditions everywhere, the ATIS for Redmond kept calling it IFR. We flew towards the airport and saw the runway lights and everything before we even entered the airspace. The only thing we noticed is that the airport appeared to be a little hazy. “IFR? What are they talking about?” we said “Let’s do an approach!” and so we did. We thought the ATIS was broken, since we were able to see the airport, the city next to it, the stars above us, and everything you would need to fly at night. It was late at night and the tower was long closed so there wasn’t any other information backing us up other than what we saw (or thought we saw) for ourselves. It wasn’t until I came to a high hover, getting ready to put the helicopter on the taxiway paralleling the runway, I just about lost all my ground references if it wasn’t for the taxiway light in front of me. What looked like haze from above looking down vertically, ended up as ground fog revealing almost zero visibility horizontally down the runway. It surprised me since I never had experienced this before even though I come from very foggy places. The ground fog layer was literally only 20 to 30 feet thick and the air above it was severe clear.
There is a learning experience in this story. On a previous flight we flew past an airport that was completely VFR, it was in the middle of the day, yet the ASOS called IFR. We assumed then the weather station was broken, or more likely frozen since it was -20C outside. I just assumed the same thing was happening in Redmond. Another question would be the legal aspect of it all? Did we just bust a regulation going into an airport VFR even though the automation showed it IFR yet we were able to see the airport from over 5 miles away?