There have been numerous fatalities in fog related accidents recently and far fewer survivors. Fog can present a real challenge to both VFR and IFR pilots alike, but VFR pilots generally lack even the basic skills needed to fly in the conditions that fog presents.
If you are a VFR pilot and you encounter fog…
- FLY THE AIRPLANE: Use your attitude indicator *and* altimeter and any instrument training that you ever received to keep the airplane stable. And remember…There is a horizon in front of you at all times — the artificial one — use it!
- EXIT THE CONDITIONS: Initiate a controlled climb or 180-degree turn.
Caution: The second option may return you to VFR and familiar landmarks sooner, but be prepared for complications. Dipping a wing and turning introduce more vertigo than a straight ahead climb. Choose the best option for your situation and stay focussed.
- CONTACT ATC: *After* you establish control and composure, seek assistance.
Caution: More head movement means more vertigo. Stay focussed on the instruments that will help you fly the plane. If you can fly the plane, you can always talk later.
If you have established level trimmed flight, get the carburetor heat on and turn the exterior lights off (no one can see you anyway). Why: If you’re flying in fog, there’s a good chance you’re flying in carb icing conditions. Also, exterior strobes and lights can impair the performance of your eyes and confuse your brain. These are extra problems you don’t need. Keep the distractions to a minimum.
Lessons From Experience
Seasoned pilots will *not* hunt for a horizon outside of the aircraft. They’ll look at the one in the plane as soon as a reliable outside reference is lost. Why: In most cases, fog will remove the real horizon quite effectively and sometimes replace it with one or more “false” horizons. “Waiting” a few moments for the sky to clear can be all the time that is needed for loss of control.
METEOROLOGY: Fog is basically a cloud that is very low to the ground. It can occur any time the temperature/dewpoint spread is small and will occur when the temperature and dewpoint are the same. Important: Fog can transition from a thin veil to hard IFR in only a few hundred feet and treating all fog as instrument conditions can help to avoid these tragic crashes and fatalities.