Author Topic: VFR On Top  (Read 977 times)

Offline Baradium

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VFR On Top
« on: November 13, 2015, 03:39:03 PM »
Years ago now, I was coming into Fairbanks International (Fairbanks, Alaska PAFA) one afternoon.   The skies were crystal clear and we had the airport in sight from nearly 100 miles out.  We start talking to approach and call the field in sight and they respond "Understand you have the airport, however the field is now IFR showing visibility of 1/4 mile, Runway 1L RVR variable 1200 to 1800, tower visibility is greater than 10 miles." 

We're sitting there looking at the airport and ATC just told us that they down right to bare minimums for us to even shoot an ILS approach in the best case (1800 is minimums so if they didn't stabilize there by time we were on the approach we would have to divert).       We start getting vectored for an ILS.  Meanwhile Everts Air Cargo is coming in with a DC-6, they hear the conversation and promptly request and are given a contact approach, which lets them fly a normal traffic pattern and land.   As a side note, this is the only time I have ever heard a contact approach requested or given in person.  As far as I know all Part 121 and probably Part 135 fixed wing passenger operations are prohibited in their ops specs from contact approaches.   

We get vectored in a wide traffic pattern for an ILS coming the opposite direction.  As we are on our downwind leg, flying alongside the runway with the runway to our right, we can't even see anything affecting visibility.  We inquire again on the weather and now it is up to 1800 RVR, but still showing 1/4 mile.   We shake our heads, figuring the weather station is busted, and continue to an ILS approach for our landing.   

All the way down the approach the entire airport is in sight, as we get lower I can see what looks like a very light haze layer, but that is all and it looks incredibly light.  I go through the landing and the moment my main landing gear touch down everything just vanishes.   I had better than 10 miles visibility until I was already on the ground and then I can barely see a couple centerline stripes down the runway.  That landing remains one of the most disorienting experiences I've ever had in an airplane.  I've never seen another fog layer like that where you could seemingly see completely through it from just above it but inside it and probably only up to an altitude of maybe 8-10' you could hardly see anything.   
"Well I know what's right, I got just one life
In a world that keeps on pushin' me around
But I stand my ground, and I won't back down"
  -Johnny Cash "I won't back Down"

Offline Mike

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Re: VFR On Top
« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2015, 03:43:15 AM »
Ok, so it's good to know I'm not the only guy this happened to  ;) ;D

Thanks for sharing your story!  |:)\


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Offline Baradium

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Re: VFR On Top
« Reply #2 on: November 15, 2015, 02:35:40 PM »
I was going into Burlington, VT once and something similar happened, except the weather was calling 10sm and clear skies.   A fog bank rolled in from the side as we flared... that one resulted in a missed approach and diversion without a planned alternate.   Good thing we were loaded with extra fuel that day!  All the airports in the area went down at the same time.

I've been on both sides of weather coming in like that.  Actually considered diverting to what I'm sure is a high security Army base once when I was still flying in Alaska because of unforecast weather.  It was late at night so their tower was closed... if we'd had to go there it would have probably been an interesting night!    Fortunately we had enough fuel to continue towards Fairbanks for one approach.  RVR came up right to minimums as we got close and we barely got in. 
"Well I know what's right, I got just one life
In a world that keeps on pushin' me around
But I stand my ground, and I won't back down"
  -Johnny Cash "I won't back Down"

Offline Franz

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Re: VFR On Top
« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2016, 09:19:51 AM »
VFR on top you say?

Well, so there I was on a cold, windy, grey and dreary day, almost OVC008, best suited to looking out a window of someplace heated with your favorite hot or cold beverage in hand. I was looking out a window all right, but no heater, no beverage, at 1000' AGL with half a six-pack (instruments that is, not the other kind) and no engine. I had a parachute on my back and a perfectly fine aircraft, so not all was lost, but this probably wasn't the best piece of ADM . . .

So, how did I get in and out of this? Well, let's go back in time 5 minutes:
There I was, 13 years old, spend the last year and a half hanging out at the local glider field, bumming rides, helping out where I could and eagerly awaiting spring to arrive so that I could finally start training. But right now it was still autumn, probably the last day of flying that year, so we did. I was strapped in the back of our ASK 13, a young FI up front and the whole thing hitched to the winch, ready to launch into the grey sky. Airborne after about 2 seconds of groundroll, VSI pegged at 1000fpm and suddenly it was as bright as day, blue sky above and white clouds below.The only hole in the overcast happend to be right above the winch at the right time. I had never seen anything like this and I spend a felt eternity taking in the view. I knew right then this whole flying thing was what I had to do.
"Time to get back down" I heard, the nose came down, airspeed build and a steep 360 turn later we were on downwind, then base, final, spoilers out touchdown and back on the ground in the grey.
A flight as memorable as my first solo about a year later and when I met my pilot of that day again after more than a decade of him flying shiny jets all across the globe, it still had a special place in his heart and logbook.

TL;DR: escaping gray autumn day for a minute in a glider gets 13yo hooked on flight.

Thanks for bringing up this memory!

P.S. The spellcheck wants to change six-pack into sexpot, what's up with that? ;D