948 Shell Creek … Fog

The flight deserves a good write up.
16 minutes duration
1300ft max. alt

It was 68 degrees before first light.  When I left the house it was just hazy but got thicker as I went inland, it was pea soup as I pasted Hwy 75… it was so bad that I missed the turnoff to Washington loop.  I tried to gauge the wind but couldn’t get a view of the flags, atop the derrick at the water treatment plant.  Surprisingly at the airpark it wasn’t so bad, I could see across the runway and figured that I could probably see well enough to launch and climb into clear air.

While setting up, the fog lifted slightly and I could see clearly from the surface to about 50 feet.  The wind was out of the ENE at 4-5mph.  I inflated without issue and turned down the runway launching about 70 degrees off the wind.    Almost immediately, (50ft/AGL), I was blinded by the fog.   At 250 ft the wind direction changed to ESE and I raced toward Shell Creek at 50mph.  Every once in a while I was able to get a glimpse of the creek meandering below me.  Turning into the wind I steered toward the radio tower which was the only visible landmark.

I was hoping to see through some holes to navigate but was just barely able to make out a few high contrast shapes.  At 1300ft it was cotton candy as far as I could see and it didn’t look like it would get any better,  and…. could possibly get worse.  I didn’t want to try a blind landing.  The GPS was great for flight data but as a map and navigational aid, not so much.

So… While I could still make out the where the airstrip was I turned back and circled down at the south end of the runway.  I spiraled down at 450ft/min and held my breath.  Finally, I could see Richards house from 100ft AGL.  I turned onto final and glided in.   I overshot the wing bag by several hundred feet but that was just fine compared with landing short and maybe hitting a fence.

This was a really marginal flight but I’M GLAD I DID IT.

Author: JoeO

Powered Paraglider pilot since 2005

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