Posted by: paywindow7 | April 26, 2014

the Sky Shadow

Sometimes the familiar becomes the strange and what we think is going to be a simple, routine thing morphs into a lifelong memory.

I was flying with no particular destination in mind. My intention that day was to just go up, bore some holes and build time in the logbook. I’m addicted to being airborne and I enjoy the manifestation of the laws of physics that occur during flight because it is absolutely Physics 101. Flying is common nowadays and passengers inside of those airborne aluminum tubes called airliners are totally pre-occupied with all their electronic games and mindless gadgetry and are ignorant of the breathtaking phenomena that occurs right outside their windows. I’ve always enjoyed a layman’s understanding of physics and Sir Isaac’s Laws are alive and well in the airborne airframe. Also Mr. Bernoulli’s principle, that he discovered over 300 years ago, still does it’s dance along every airfoil on every aircraft on every flight. Thrust from the engines move the beast forward and at specific speeds the shape of the wings combine with that airflow to create work in the form of lift. Pressure variants caused by the flight controls on other surfaces turn and maneuver it through the air. Most people don’t care, I do.

It was early spring and the pre-flight check of the weather indicated that the days temperature and barometric pressure combination was to be as close to a “standard day” as we ever experience around here. Also included in that weather brief was the aviation acronym: “CAVU”, which means Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited so I could expect a clear mild day without a cloud in the sky.

I lifted off a little before 11:00am and as the end of the runway fell away I rolled into a climbing turn to starboard and departed the airport traffic pattern. A couple of minutes later I leveled out at 2500 feet I and was tracking west with the morning sun high and slightly behind me. After about 15 minutes I could see a small lake dead ahead in the distance. I also noticed that the horizon directly ahead looked a little different than the horizon visible to the left and right of my flight path. Continuing on it soon became apparent that the area directly ahead at a distance of about 10 miles was getting darker the closer I got to it. It was like sitting inside of a room and looking out through a screen door. The top of the shadow was a straight line at the same altitude I was flying and appeared to be about a mile wide with squared corners at the top with straight sides that reached far below.

I continued to close on the shadow and it continued to darken until I could no longer see through it. At that point it extended 20 degrees to the left and right of my heading. Since I could no longer see through it, any other air traffic that might be on the other side was as dangerous a hazard to me as I was to them. I was not going to fly through whatever it was so I stood on a wing and did my impression of a flat 180 out of there. After a few miles I turned about 45 degrees to the left and looked over my shoulder at where the shadow had been and it was gone.

When I got back to the hanger I asked some of the other pilots, that were sitting around the coffee pot, if they had ever heard of anything like that and got a lot of blank looks. I’m Still getting them.

Over the years I’ve described the event to meteorologists and many commercial pilots with thousands of hours flying international routes and none of them had ever seen or heard of what I saw that day. I’ve thought a lot about it and finally come to the conclusion that water evaporating out of the lake had somehow formed a cell of high humidity above it and with the position of the sun above and behind me, that moisture was causing a refraction of the rays of the sun in such a way to cause the shadow to appear. Perhaps the polarized windshield in the aircraft was also having some effect on the image.

If anybody knows or thinks they know what I was seeing I would appreciate your comments here or my email is


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