Flat Light

23 01 2013

Flat light is an optical illusion, also known as “sector or partial white out.” It is not as severe as “white out” but the condition causes pilots to lose their depth-of-field and contrast in vision. Flat light conditions are usually accompanied by overcast skies inhibiting any good visual clues. Such conditions can occur anywhere in the world, primarily in snow covered areas but can occur in dust, sand, mud flats, or on glassy water. Flat light can completely obscure features of the terrain, creating an inability to distinguish distances and closure rates. As a result of this reflected light, it can give pilots the illusion of ascending or descending when actually flying level. However, with good judgment and proper training and planning, it is possible to safely operate an aircraft in flat light conditions.

This is what the skyline usually looks like.

This is what the skyline usually looks like.

The red airport building is clearly visible, but the horizon blurs with the mountains. I suspect this day planes landed, but many winter days the airport is shut down because of poor conditions.

The red airport building is clearly visible, but the horizon blurs with the mountains. I suspect this day planes landed, but many winter days the airport is shut down because of poor conditions.

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