When Do You
VFR into IMC. We read that short
statement in aircraft accident reports
far too often. And by now you'd think
pilots would know better. You DON'T fly,
in fact you CAN'T fly visually in
instrument meteorological conditions.
It's a simple fact. So why then, does it
continue to happen and cause crashes? Why
are people dying and perfectly good
airplanes being wrecked by pilots trying
to beat the unbeatable odds?
accidents that don't need to happen.
They're predictable, and therefore
avoidable. It' s all about decision
making. When to say, "No, I won' t
fly into that area, those clouds, that
weather" . Let me try to sort this
pilot with a brand new license in his
pocket will often turn back from bad
weather sooner than a more experienced
one. At this point in his career, that
good decision usually has nothing to do
with good judgment, but rather it\rquote
s fear. He is afraid of cloud because in
his relatively short time flying, he's
been in nothing but clear conditions,
supervised by his instructor. Weather
distractions are usually not a factor in
the learning environment. His low-time is
an advantage, and may save his life more
often than he could possibly know.
that same pilot in a similar situation
after he's built up four or five hundred
hours working in a small charter
operation. By this point in time, he has
no doubt flown in a bit of 'soup' , but
has made it through without too much
trouble. Chalk up the good outcome from
each of those flights to good experience.
His confidence is increased as long as
he's not hurt. It's an important,
necessary process. The weather doesn't
accommodate pilots or air operators with
clear, VFR conditions all the time. Some
calculated risks and bending of the rules
are a fact of life. The pilot gains
experience quickly, but unfortunately it
usually happens too fast, and his age,
maturity and good judgment lag behind.
This is not
a good thing. This is when he becomes
dangerous to himself, his airplane,
employer and his passengers. The pilot at
this stage, has beaten the weather enough
times to figure out the risks have
rewards. So he continues to take them.
Every one of us has flown into and
through something that we know we should
not have been in. We do that because
there are usually good 'reasons' for
continuing on into deteriorating
conditions. We push ourselves to complete
a flight because of pressures of the job
or from passengers on board.
once described a good pilot as one who
relies on his excellent judgment to avoid
the situations which require his
exceptional skills to get out of. A true
statement if I ever heard one!
judgment must be accompanied by the
courage to make the right decisions too.
A pilot may judge a situation to be
unsafe, but without the courage to say
"no" to his passengers or
employer, he remains a reckless risk.
Both judgment and courage come with
experience, and with age. I've always
believed that the older the pilot, the
safer he will be. Of course that comes
with the caveat that there's a point
where the mind starts to slow down and
have trouble with solid reasoning too.
This is all
philosophical ramblings from someone who
thinks he\rquote s old enough to know
better, and not old enough to feel he's
on the downward slide. And when I was
younger, I probably thought I was wiser
too. But that really wasn' t so. I'm a
lot wiser now, and I have no problem
turning back from weather or conditions
that, years ago, I would have proceeded
into and may have wound up in serious
trouble. Luckily it never happened,
because undoubtedly there was some degree
of good judgment happening then too.
all the accidents that result from the
VFR flight into IMC scenarios, I'm left
wondering why it happens so often? In my
experience, the one (or two) times I flew
into bad weather, it scared the pants off
me. Although I made it through in one
piece, I wasn' t proud of it. In fact I
was mad at myself for getting into
something I knew I should not have. Then
I resolved it would never happen again.
And it didn't. Apart from those
incidents, there's not been another
decision I could still not defend as
being the right one. That leaves me out
of a lot of hangar discussions that
evolve into bragging and boasting about
how bad the conditions were, and how the
storyteller made it through. They're all
interesting, some embellished almost
beyond belief, but that' s OK . Some
people are just plain lucky. They say
they've made it through time after time
in conditions they describe as something
of a nightmare to me. "No
thanks" I say. I'll play it safe. My
airplanes have never been bent, and
nobody ever got hurt. You can' t argue
with decisions like that.
the final word on this topic to someone
on the AVCANADA internet forum. I am not
a member of the group that writes in the
forum, so I know nothing of this
person\rquote s background or experience.
But his words of wisdom say it well.
Quote: " This is part of the
learning process, as time passes you
begin to realize how soon these trips we
thought just had to go regardless, were
actually of no real importance once some
time has passed."
a half a century of flying I can not
remember even one trip that I refused to
do that resulted in someone getting
killed because of my decision not to fly.