A good pilot is always learning -- how many times have you heard
this old standard throughout your flying career? There is no truer
statement in all of flying (well, with the possible exception of
"there are no old, bold pilots.") It's part of what makes aviation
so exciting for all of us... just when you think you've seen it
all, along comes a scenario you've never imagined.
Aero-News has called upon the expertise of Thomas P. Turner,
master CFI and all-around-good-guy, to bring our readers -- and us
-- daily tips to improve our skills as aviators, and as
representatives of the flying community. Some of them, you may have
heard before... but for each of us, there will also be something we
might never have considered before, or something that didn't
"stick" the way it should have the first time we memorized it for
the practical test.
It is our unabashed goal that "Aero-Tips" will help our readers
become better, safer pilots -- as well as introducing our
ground-bound readers to the concepts and principles that keep those
strange aluminum-and-composite contraptions in the air... and allow
them to soar magnificently through it.
Look for our daily Aero-Tips segments, coming each day to you
through the Aero-News Network. Suggestions for future Aero-Tips are
always welcome, as are additions or discussion of each day's tips.
Remember... when it comes to being better pilots, we're all in this
In a recent Aero-Tips article we
discussed options for "picking up" an instrument clearance when
departing a nontowered airport. One option:
Depart in visual conditions when you are assured you can remain
in Visual Meteorological Conditions (VMC), and contact Air Traffic
Control (ATC) by radio to pick up your IFR clearance in the
Launching VFR on an IFR trip is not without risk, however. Read
From the NTSB:
The crew of a Beechjet 400A filed a
flight plan for a 15-minute flight from Rome, Georgia to
Huntsville, Alabama. It was a typical day of corporate flying for
the professional crew, with seven executives of a grocery store
chain on a fast-paced, multi-city facilities tour. There was no
tower or Remote Communications Outlet (RCO) at Rome, so the crew
elected to depart VFR under an overcast, planning to pick up their
IFR clearance once they could make radio contact with ATC.
After departing the captain called Atlanta Center. There was
another IFR airplane in the area that prevented Atlanta from
issuing the Beechjet its clearance; the controller advised the crew
to remain VFR. While waiting for their clearance the crew "became
concerned about higher terrain" and began maneuvering to avoid
hills as they climbed closer to the mountain-obscuring cloud layer.
About four minutes after taking off the jet impacted a hill at 1580
feet, or roughly 900 feet above field elevation. All nine aboard
the Beechjet perished and the airplane was destroyed.
In controlled airspace without radar coverage only one IFR
airplane can be admitted at a time. Taking off VFR means you must
be able to remain VFR in the event you cannot pick up your
clearance at all. Traffic in the area may prevent ATC from issuing
you your clearance.
There have been cases also where pilots launch VFR to pick up a
clearance in the air, but either "bust" Class B, C or D airspace or
fly into the ground trying to avoid the airspace bust. Don't plan
to pick up your clearance in the air if you'll have to maneuver
wildly to avoid airspace (or nearby traffic), especially at night
or near rising terrain.
Here's a gotcha: ATC can't give you a clearance in the air
unless you're at the Minimum Vectoring Altitude (MVA), the lowest
level for reliable radar contact. In some areas this may be several
thousand feet above ground level. MVAs are not published in sources
available to pilots; if there's a mid-level cloud deck you might
call the controlling ATC facility directly and ask for the MVA in
Aero-tip of the day: Departing VFR to pick up
an IFR clearance in the air is an expedient that works well in good
VFR weather. Resist time pressure to use this technique, however,
in areas of IFR weather or rising, obscured terrain.