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?

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5 comments on “Chicken Wings Classic – VFR on top
  1. Jim Pennino says:

    Thought you would like to know I have seen fog like this many times in the morning on the West coast of Korea when the air was dead calm.

    The morning would start with no visibility at all and the fog level would slowly drop as it warmed and heads then whole bodies would start to appear above the fog.

    Yes, it was very weird to see.

  2. L says:

    I believe you meant “actual IMC”. “IFR” means “Rules”. Chuck was in instrument conditions, not in instrument rules.
    But then again, since it was Julio who said it, he is not required to know the distinction so maybe this was done on purpose and the joke is on me. 🙂

  3. Sunset and shadow can do similar things; about 30 years ago, I was flying out of Whiteman Air Park in LA and getting ready for some night flying instruction. The day was nice and sunny, but when I got into the air, I couldn’t see the runway because it was in shadow from the mountains! Fortunately, some kind-hearted soul put the runway lights on and I greased it on, dead even with the lights…which are mounted about eighteen inches above the ground. Three or four bounces later, I slunk back to the tiedown, noting my instructor quietly snickering from the shack… 😉

  4. Captain Dunsel says:

    My first duty station as a USAF Weather Observer was Griffiss AFB, Rome, NY. The base had water on three sides, so it often got fogged in (at least, when it wasn’t snowed in!).

    One cool, clear, calm Sunday morning, I noticed the Runway Visual Range monitor (FMN-1, aka “Funny Man 1”) was indicating unlimited visibility on one end of the runway and zero on the other end. So, I took a walk from the observation building (a little building that looked like an old Dairy Queen) down to the side of the runway.

    From there, I could see a fog bank had oozed out of the tree line and was right down the center of the runway. It sat there for about a half-hour, before retreating back into the woods as the sun rose. I checked with the tower and verified there was no traffic expected. It would’ve been hard to report that one side of the cockpit would’ve been IFR, but the other side clear and a million.

  5. passerby says:

    I’ve experienced a similar weather about 15 years ago. Supposedly, a lot of hot water was dumped in a river at temperature near 0C, and it created a 6 meter (20 feet) layer of thick fog in the district around the purification plant.

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