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By SmoothFlyer
As I was returning to my home airfield, the sun was quite low on the horizon with only a little bit of cloud cover.

As I turned onto final, the low sun completely obliterated my view of the runway. In fact I had no forward visibility whilst descending. Suddenly losing visibility was quite frightening, because I could not see the runway and had no idea if I were still aligned with it. I couldn't see if there was anything ahead of me, and most scary of all, I couldn't judge how low I was. I carried on for a little bit... maybe a few seconds... to see if I could get a better view. The sunshades in the aircraft were of no use whatsoever.

Finally initiated a go around and as the nose of the plane blocked the direct sun, I noticed that I was completely misaligned and at a dangerously low height.

On the second attempt, I flew the circuit and again turned final. By this time the lighting had improved a little bit and I could see the PAPI lights, which I used to descend. I was relieved as I flared and was able to once again see the runway clearly. I landed, thankfully, without further incidence.

Walking away from the parked aircraft, I was wondering what could I have done differently. The only thing that I could think of was to leave the circuit, wait for the sun to just go below the horizon and then come back and try again.

Unfortunately that thought didn't occur to me at the time. Would have been less stressful.

Has anyone else been in a similar situation? How did you handle it and what did you do?
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By Flyin'Dutch'
SmoothFlyer wrote:Has anyone else been in a similar situation? How did you handle it and what did you do?

Used to fly out of a EW orientated strip and low sun was a regular problem especially in the winter months.

Usually leaving the circuit and coming back a few minutes later would mean that the sun had moved, a cloud had moved in to give some cover and one could safely proceed.

Glad you managed to get in safely the second time - but go and give yourself a gentle rollocking for proceeding when you could not see where you were going!

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By Jim Jones
Use the reciprocal? Assuming the wind is not too strong a tailwind onto a runway you can see may be preferable.

(And preflight should include a detailed check of the screen, inside and out).
By MidlandsPilot
I had a similar dilemma yesterday too. The airfield was operating on the 23 runway, which is a very wide grass runway (hard to judge height at the best of times, no features to help with height judging), with the sun quite nicely placed at the end of it. Pre-empting this*, I requested on downwind to land on 21 instead - the airfield doesn't usually mind this, just extend base leg. It was a good call, as the pilot ahead of me called after landing to suggest changing runways, as the sun was right at the end!

I was glad I gave the windscreen a wipe before takeoff, I've learnt that the hard way! Flying into a low sun and only being able to use the side windows!

* also, I'd not been flying recently and have a nasty habit of bouncing on this particular runway - I manage to hit the same bump each time it seems!
By GAFlyer4Fun
A lot of flying is about anticipation and thinking ahead.

My simple suggestion is to plan to land earlier in the day if could be landing into a setting sun and always have sunglasses even if you think you wont need them.

Why? Well consider the following...

Going through Autumn towards Winter, not only do the daylight hours shorten, but so does the duration of twilight before it goes very dark. Could get interesting if several aircraft pitch up to land close to sunset and they start going around. Got a night rating?

Autumnal mist and fog.... can appear sooner than forecast.

Some old windscreens can go opaque when the sun is in a certain position although it does not happen every time and can be difficult to reproduce on demand for the engineer. I had it a few times but worse than opaque is a gazillion fine scratch lines producing their own rainbow effect. Very pretty but pretty unpractical! Go around on instruments until could see through the windscreen again. Maintenance could not recreate it in a hangar with a torch. Nobody else in the group experienced it until I had an instructor on board to confirm the experience! New windscreen fitted eventually.

Once the sun gets that low, interpretation of the (enroute) Give Way rules can get interesting. e.g. the aircraft that has right of way is supposed to maintain its flight path and speed and let the other aircraft do the avoiding. That does not work so well if the other pilot cant see you (even with electronic conspicuity), so always be prepared to give way even when you have right of way. Worth considering for the enroute trip back to base or if you know some of the local pilots habitually cant follow the published circuit at the best of times making it difficult to find them in the poor viz.

If thinking about using the reciprocal runway, is the runway long enough for the amount of tailwind as well as the other usual landing performance factors.

If thinking about using the reciprocal runway those with a radio could coordinate a change of runway, but how are you going to tell the pilot of the non-radio aircraft that is also having trouble seeing you all in the circuit?
Of the ones that are on the radio when someone (non-Full ATC) says "After the landing aircraft, the active runway will be XX", there are a number of interesting ways that all the aircraft in the circuit and those joining the circuit can reposition for the reciprocal or cross runway. Some might try to preserve the current order of landing and follow the one in front (Orderly queue, how British! yeah right - remember what car drivers are like with queues, some play nice and some dont). Some might try to reverse the landing order thinking they are nearer final. Some might try to queue jump in their faster plane! Some might turn left, some might turn right.... some might get a fright! Be prepared for anything.... and perhaps bug out of the circuit for a rejoin.

If the previous pilot makes a mess of the landing or has some other emergency/problem such as engine failure, collapsed undercarriage, stuck in the mud, tyre puncture etc etc and blocks the runway, where are you going to divert to? Will it be dark before you get there? Will it be misty/foggy/frosty etc. Fuel state?

Do you really need any of that hassle? Probably not, hence my suggestion at the beginning.

(I am sure someone will have other factors to consider, but I think I did enough to make a point :wink: )
By GAFlyer4Fun
Forgot to say one of the incidents with the rainbow effect windscreen was about 2-3 hours before sunset! So planning to land "a bit earlier" before sunset is not always guaranteed to work, but that early in the day at least I had plenty of time to go around for another circuit until the sun moved sufficiently to not do the rainbow thing again that day.
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By SmoothFlyer
In the situation that I was in, the windscreen was clean, but had shillions of scratches, which made the entire screen opaque.

Ultimately I think that I had two other options (other than landing on the second attempt). Those would be to get out of the circuit for a bit, go to the local area or nearby for a few mins and come back. The sun would have lowered sufficiently not to white out the entire screen.

The second option, perhaps would have been to come in doing S turns to keep runway in sight. I don't know if that would work practically, but could have been an option.
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By PeteSpencer
Several years ago after a few late autumn afternoon narrow squeaks on our 08/26 strip (we have 30ft trees alongside the first 150 yds of 26), we were moved to get our elderly yellowing crazed windscreen replaced.

Few problems since, provided it's kept scrupulously clean.... :wink:

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By Jim Jones
SmoothFlyer wrote:In the situation that I was in, the windscreen was clean, but had shillions of scratches, which made the entire screen opaque

This happened to me. I then discovered one of those combined sponge and pan scourer things on the back seat. I guess someone had used the wrong side to mop the screen of water. It needed a complete polish with fine abrasive to sort it. :x

I learned since then to look at the screen from an angle which makes scratches more visible.
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By Paul_Sengupta
PeteSpencer wrote:our elderly yellowing crazed windscreen

I didn't have my mind on the subject as I cast a glance over the post at first and when I read "yellow crazed windscreen", the first thing that popped into my mind was a type of bird...
Hi Paul-the first thing I did on becoming our group administrator was to replace the crazed screens--what a difference.! I don"t know if you wear glasses-if so try flip up sunglasses
(ATTACHED TO NORMAL SPECS). I have used mine on a few occasions--does give some help.
Presumably you already have a baseball cap with a long peak.?
By johncondor
I was returning to Compton Abbas one Summer evening and, with about 20 miles to run, the sky looked very black. I asked for a weather check and was advised that they had very heavy rain and hail but that it was moving from west to east. With Henstridge as a possible diversion I altered course slightly hoping to come in from the west if the storm had cleared by then. By the time I was ready to join downwind for 26 the rain had eased, and everything looked fine to continue. The sky was still very black but there was a bright western horizon showing that it was clearing.

I continued the circuit, turned final and set up for a normal landing. When I was about 20 ft up, the setting sun suddenly came from under the cloud and, with a rain covered windscreen I was completely blinded ahead. Fortunately, my peripheral vision helped me to a reasonable landing - I've done many worse with no excuse, I think I would be ready for something like that if it ever happens again.
By Maxthelion
I've experienced the OP's issue enough times to be happy to just leave the circuit for 10 minutes. After all, even without a night rating we are technically legal to fly until 30 minutes after sunset, so just wait until the sun has probably dropped below the horizon when viewed from 50 ft up and you're going to be fine.
By robert79
I know someone who did just that in a glider and ended up flaring about 30 feet above the runway. Glider was written off and he was lucky to escape with nothing more than a sore back for a few weeks and a bruised ego.
Just because it's legal doesn't mean it's safe or a good idea.