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Fog + Airplanes = Death?

by John M. White |  | 2 comments

We have all been there at one time or another, we have our Private Pilot's license and have been flying just long enough to feel comfortable with the airplane we fly. Its beginning to feel like second nature, we have over 200 hours, and flying airplanes "just feels right." We know all about the "get home itus" bug, and have vowed never for me, and we can now push the envelope just a little bit when we have to. A couple of times we got a special VFR to get out of the control zone and be on our way for some golf or other activity, and it worked out just fine. We watch the IFR pilots climb into the clouds, and dream of one day having an Instrument rating too.
But, for now, we don't have the money, time or inclination to get one. So, every once in a while we push ourselves, just a little bit. On March 30th the AOPA AIr Safety Foundation announced that it found that 3/4ths of the time aircraft accidents which occur in fog are fatal to the occupants of the aircraft. Official accident statistics don't have a clear cut category for "fog" accidents, so they included "obscuration" and "below minimums" in their analysis. Piper Cub In Fog Looking at those accidents where the pilots were on IFR flight plans, VFR flight plans and those on no flight plans at all the AOPA Safety Foundation found that those with no flight plan led the list with 203 fatalities between 1998 and 2007. Surprisingly, those on IFR flight plans came in second, with some 106 fatalities, followed by only 49 fatalities for those on VFR flight plans. Part 91 operations led the pack with 340 fatalities, while Part 135 operations had only 38 fatalities. So what are we to make of this data? As I have observed many times in the past, attitude is the crucial test for any pilot, and it appears that those who were conscientious enough to file a VFR flight plan seemed to have a better attitude than those who filed none, given the numbers. For IFR pilots, when they are expecting low ceilings and visibility it won't necessarily deter them from attempting the flight, but fog can make things go South in a hurry, and an approach that busts the minimums can get you into a whole world of hurt. So, the next time you think about taking off in low visibility or fog conditions without filing a flight plan, perhaps you should reflect on this data and decide "not today." Today is never a good day to die! What do you think? Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! JetAviator7 The danger? But danger is one of the attractions of flight. — Jean Conneau, 1911.

Comments (2)

  • Ralph King on June 24, 2019

    Fog in my opinion can be the worse for IFR destinations, because the forward visability can be less than 1,000 or less. If one has a dealth wish, trying to land in IFR conditions without the IFR rating will get you your wish. Carry alot of fuel and have an alternate airport in mind, do not push your ability. Logging IFR flight hours means only logging actual time flying the aircraft on instruments as well as IFR approaches. Scud running the last few miles to get to the airport is bad. There could be an IFR aircraft departing that airport, though it may not have a control tower. Aircraft can pick up a IFR clearance to depart without there being a tower, remember that. You may not want an instrument rating, but get enough instrument training to get yourself out of a jam.

  • JetAviator7 on June 24, 2019

    Ralph, I couldn’t agree more. Many a pilot has come to his ruin, not to mention that of his airplane, scud running.

    Even an IFR rating and a jet aircraft doesn’t keep you out of trouble when it comes to fog. Read my post How To Break An Airplane to see how one pilot did it.

    JetAviator7 ({John}

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