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.