Lesson 67
30 May
1.1 Hours

AWOS said the visibility was 10 miles, but by the time I got to 1200 feet and turned west toward the practice area, the ground already looked fuzzy, and the reservoir, only eight miles away, was invisible.  I flew out to it all the same, hoping to get in some ground reference maneuver practice, even though there wasn't a breath of wind.  I stayed at 1500 feet, to keep the ground in sight.  Over the reservoir, I looked back, but couldn't see even a hint of the airport, so I did some clearing turns and made one half-hearted turn around a water tower, then pointed the nose due east toward the sun, which was making the air luminous, and flew three or four miles before the airport emerged from the glowing haze..

There were several other planes and a helicopter in the pattern, going around and around, landing and taking off, apparently not interested in braving the haze.  I joined them, and we all had a good time trying to see each other.  I had the strobes and the landing light on, in addition to the beacon, and I still felt as if the airplane was invisible.  Everyone was very careful to announce their position and intention, and to say who they had in sight.  Interesting.  In the 45 minutes, or so, that I stayed in the pattern, three planes arrived from elsewhere, only one of them doing instrument practice, so I guess it was possible to navigate VFR--but I'll bet it wasn't a lot of fun without a GPS or some serious VOR work.

I did three soft-field takeoffs, and finally managed what had to be the perfect one, with the yoke back just enough to get the wheels up three or four feet and accelerate smoothly in ground effect, without any unwanted rise or descent, to 67 knots, and then back just a bit, establishing a positive rate of climb, and then the flaps up and climbing to pattern altitude.

I'd planned to do some engine-out landings, but didn't feel comfortable about that, what with the haze and the heavy traffic.  At one time I was turning final, number one to land, when number four announced he was on crosswind.  I did do one short field landing that worked okay, although I'm never very happy approaching the runway at Vx, 54 knots.  Sure, I know the thing will fly comfortably at 40 knots--but I'm only comfortable doing that with a few thousand feet of air between me and the ground.

As I was walking to the terminal I passed a red Cessna 150--one of the planes that had arrived from elsewhere--and saw the pilot opening the cowl, looking awfully unhappy.  A few minutes later he came inside, saying that his engine wouldn't start and that it kept blowing a fuse.  (I thought it had circuit breakers, like the 152.)   I couldn't help thinking that that pretty little airplane just didn't want to go back up in the murk.

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