Off to the airport last night, a bit before dusk. I needed another flight, and the young lady that I took shooting last week had never flown in a small plane before, so despite a heavy haze the cut visibility down close to VFR minimums, we took off and headed over the mountain ridges towards Cumberland, MD.
Well there was this little matter of priority traffic on the runway.
We got up and out over the ridge lines to the west just fine. Visibility straight down wasn't an issue, so seeing where we were was a snap. It's just when you looked out to the horizon and realized that there really wasn't one that the haze became apparent. But it was still "Visibility >6" at both MRB and CBE, and I'm over an area that I know very well so on we flew, picking up the Potomac River at Paw Paw and following it west by northwest up towards Cumberland.
At Cumberland, I made left traffic for Runway 23, which was best for winds and the longest runway besides, but probably the worst for me personally because the pattern approach takes you right over the big rail yard there and there's always so much cool stuff moving around down there that I'm like: "Power back...flaps 10...carb heat on...SQUIRREL!"
Still, I managed to focus on flying the plane, and settled in for a sweet landing that impressed my rather easily impressible passenger. Then we took off again and flew north for a bit over the city before picking up Interstate 68 and following it back to the east. I tried for a landing at Hancock, MD's Potomac Airpark, but the pilot-controlled lighting wasn't coming on. I flew the left downwind and base legs over the downtown strip, which is really pretty at night, but when it came time for the turn to final, the lights still weren't on, so I added power, pulled the flaps back in and made it a "go around", continuing on down the river. From here, we could make out the city lights of Hagerstown, MD to the northeast, Martinsburg, WV to the southeast, and Frederick, MD way off to the east ahead. The fact that I could make out Frederick suggested that visibility was improving, but by now the flight was almost at an end. Heading back in to Martinsburg, I came in and shot three night landings, then taxied over to the now-closed FBO and tied down for the night. It had been a decent if relatively uneventful 2 hours of flying in crummy VFR visibility, but it was good practice and my passenger loved it.