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Is there ever any excuse for being caught out by fog, and what would you do?

Actually provoked by Peter in another thread. You get back to the UK, and shortly before coasting in, everything goes down, even with IFR reserves range.

My only close call was a week ago in the CIs coming out of Jersey and within 15 minutes pretty much everything went down in the CIs and west of Southampton. With full tanks (cheap fuel ) and a 500 range it was hardly a concern, but in different circumstances, it was indicative of how quickly fog can become an issue. Mind you thank goodness for two engines because returning for some reason with a failed or failing engine would not have been enticing.

.. .. .. and if it happened, excuses or not, what would you do?

I would do what they did during WWII when fog set it, as described by Ernest Gann in “Fate is the Hunter”, fly several approaches in VMC just skimming the fog, to try to disperse it. I’d ask the ground crew to drive up and down a few time while I orbit.

If that failed (and it would, most likely) I would find myself the biggest instrument runway with an RNAV approach and high intensity lighting, set myself on short finals in a flare attitude from 200ft up at 500fpm descent rate, and just wait for it. I’d use the rnav guidance and the synviz on the iPad to try to stay on the runway for as long as possible.

But first I would check if the big airports can take me in, whatever the cost.


With no instrument approach capability, I’d look for a hilltop runway, and, failing that, just a hilltop.

EGPE, United Kingdom

Assuming no syn vis and talking the UK where a precision rnav approach is unlikely I would look for a long, ILS-equipped runway, descend fully configured on the GS and at about 100 feet start to pull power back and raise the nose slightly to ensure touchdown on the mains. Just stay on the localiser and don’t stall.

EGTK Oxford

denopa wrote:

I’d ask the ground crew to drive up and down a few time while I orbit.

You can ask them for landing on “heated runway”? or “land behind XYZ heavy” with max wake/turbulence?

Maoraigh wrote:

With no instrument approach capability, I’d look for a hilltop runway, and, failing that, just a hilltop.

The reason you have that much tick and widespread fog in the SE of UK is the lack of mountains/hills (not applicable to highlands in Scotland ), but personally I prefer trying IMC on the flat !

ESSEX, United Kingdom

If you have an ILS equipped big runway, a similar question is “how to land below minima without visual references?”

ESSEX, United Kingdom
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Thanks for the ref, shall I add without instrument referrences as well, not just landing or accuracy of ILS indication that go weong even a go-around is not guaranteed bellow minimas (e.g. obstacle clearances, inertia…)

These guys managed to skip it well, with a sensible go-around bellow minima

Not sure what if they could have landed well tough !

ESSEX, United Kingdom

Firstly on the “is there any excuse” element of the question, the answer is yes. I have encountered it twice where the whole of Southern England was covered in completely unforecast thick fog.

On the first occasion I was coming back from France and it was obvious when I first got the VOLMET that things were awry. I landed in France and stayed the night.

On the second occasion I was returning from the North of England (or maybe Scotland) and by the time I reached DTY all the southern airfields were suddenly dropping like flies, many already below minima. Luckily Cranfield was still clear and I got in a few minutes before it too was fogged in.

In terms of what to do (assuming you don’t have range to get anywhere above minima), it depends hugely on whether it’s day or night.

At night, it is surprising how much you can see at a big airport with long approach lights, running rabbits and centreline lighting. If you keep your cool and remain stable, and ask for lights to maximum, there is a good chance that you will be able to land relatively normally, though it is nerve-wracking.

By day, I agree with Jason. I was taught to do this on my IR, and have done it once for real (not fog, but windscreen covered in ice; same effect) and landed an Aztec with no damage. But it really is the counsel of last resort. It is one up from just waiting for the fuel to run out and piling into the ground.

As we are now in the season on mists and mellow fruitfulness, let me tell you of an amazing thing I saw last week at Biggin Hill. The whole of the South East was covered in fog, but when I drove up to Biggin it was beautifully CAVOK – you could see forever (the advantage, as someone mentioned of being on a hill.)

But the temperature was 12/12, so it was clear that we were teetering on the edge. As I was outside the hangar preflighting the aircraft, the weather went from CAVOK to 50m in about 20 seconds. And it wasn’t a fogbank rolling in, it was literally created by the surface cooling (it suddenly dropped to 10/10). There were a few wisps then “bang”, like a light being switched off. There was another pilot nearby and we were discussing how neither of us had ever seen anything like it.

And, going back to the OP, it was unforecast.

EGKB Biggin Hill

I think without some instrument based guidance, it is totally russian roulette… probably with worse odds.

But surely this is not realistic. Would you get zero-zero conditions and a loss of GPS and a loss of radio (precluding a PAR approach) and a loss of ILS?

I think I would navigate (somehow) to some distance offshore and then descend, slowly… the raft is always carried.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom
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