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.")
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. 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.
Look for our daily Aero-Tips segments, coming each day to you
through the Aero-News Network.
Yesterday we looked at one element of a scenario taken from the
December 2006 issue of Callback, the publication of the Aviation Safety Reporting
System. The pilot entered Instrument Meteorological
Conditions (IMC) and, while on vectors for an ILS approach and
after experiencing "the leans", recovered
only to find he had lost situational awareness and did not know
where he was on the approach.
The narrative continues:
The weakest part of my performance was not articulating to
Approach that I had experienced vertigo and subsequent loss of
situational awareness... The controller did recognize that I was
having difficulty... and offered vectors, which were gratefully
The pilot successfully flew the approach (of course, since we
read his account), and provides some valuable advice for the
instrument pilot. Comments after each of his points are mine:
1) If marginal VFR is forecast, always file IFR in unfamiliar
- Flying IFR provides an additional level of safety by
designating precise routes and altitudes to fly.
- The IFR flight planning process forces a pilot to plan to a
greater extent than he/she might for a visual flight.
- On an IFR flight plan and clearance, the pilot is already "in
the system" and ready if the weather deteriorates.
- An IFR clearance does reduce some of the pilot's flexibility to
deal with weather, for instance, to remain clear of clouds and
precipitation in icing conditions.
2) Practice IFR in actual IMC rather than just hood time.
- Flight in "actual" is a lot more stressful than under the hood
-- you can't just look up and be in good weather.
- Actual IMC practice more closely mirrors what you will see and
do when without an instructor in the airplane.
- Training in actual lets you experience hearing and fitting in
with other IFR traffic.
3) Loss of situational awareness requires prompt notification to
ATC and a request for vectors.
- Lost in the clouds close to the ground and converging with an
airport is not a good place to be -- if in doubt, ask ATC.
4) Emphasis on unusual attitude recovery in IFR and vertigo
recognition/recovery are a critical part of IFR and VFR recurrent
- There's a tendency to give short attention to unusual attitude
skills in recurrent instrument training.
- Include partial-panel unusual attitude recognition and
recovery-extreme attitudes may cause instruments to tumble, making
you "go partial panel" at the same time you try to recover.
Aero-tip of the day: Heed this pilot's advice,
borne from near-disaster…to the extent possible train the
way you'll fly, and use the tools at your disposal if you get lost
in the clouds.