The other day a friend asked me if I could fly through clouds. The short answer is no. It is in fact illegal for me to even get within 500 feet vertically of a cloud, and 1 mile horizontally. In the air a solid layer looks like thick grey cotton candy.

Clouds obscure vision. If you can’t see the ground you can’t tell which way is up without the help of a gyroscope (The artificial horizon). To fly safely and legally with these instruments in clouds you need another 40 hours of training, at least.

What is flying in clouds like? I only have simulated experience. Once my instructor had me take off in the simulator into clouds. As I climbed the solid grey mass grew closer when suddenly the entire screen became a solid mass of shimmering grey. There was nothing to see “outside” so I directed my attention toward the panel.

To put it in car terms it would be something like driving around with totally blacked out windshield and relying on your GPS exclusively to figure out where you are, how fast you are going, and which way the car is pointed.

Except in aircraft (Many without GPS) you would rely on paper maps and radio beacons to keep you on the right track. Radio beacons tell you where you are in relation to the beacon, not in relation to where you want to go. So even flying with beacons requires a lot of brainpower to infer your location in the world from what the beacon is telling you.

It’s kind of like playing “Marco Polo” in the pool x 1000.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s