Sunday, July 26, 2009

Pushing the weather

I know I'm getting myself into a touchy area of flying but it's the point of my blog. Too many low time guys get themselves into hairy situations without any practical training or know with all to get themselves out of it. Refer to the accident reports to justify my previous statement.

I'm here to provide you with some solutions to exiting dangerous situations. My focus is based around single engine and light twin aircraft as this is what most low timers will start out on. Also this information precludes to not only bush flying, but also flying privately and instructing.

First of all, I strongly recommend getting some IFR training. This training has saved my butt more times than I can remember and especially if you aren't flying very often, it's always good to have it in your back pocket.

Many pilots are familiar with "get home-i-tis" and it's very important to recognize it before it's too late. I will admit I have been in situations where I think to myself, "if I just go a little lower, I will pop out and see what I'm trying to see," or "I know so and so made it in, I should be able to as well." At that very moment, sound the alarms. This attitude and thought process will kill you! Always fly the aircraft in your comfort zone as this will allow you to maintain your situational awareness and a high level of safety.

I can't stress how important it's to monitor what the weather is really doing. I know this sounds obvious but more times than not, many pilots will continue further into the weather hoping it will improve. Unless you know the route like the back of your hand; nine times out of ten, you are taking the first step towards an accident. Normally, if the weather is worsening, you are heading towards a system and the likely hood of it improving is slim. On a side note, those pilots that know the routes have a tendency to push themselves a little more and a little more every time. I don't know how many accident reports I have come across where a fifteen thousand hour guy has thundered it in pushing the weather. It's an unfortunate event and we must all learn from it. Always, and I mean always remain in your comfort zone and don't deviate. Over time, you will become more familiar and your zone will expand with each hour flown. I'm sure many of you have heard the saying "there are old pilots, there are bold pilots, but there are no old bold pilots." The quote still holds true today, so learn from the mistakes of others.

Ok lets say you get yourself into the soup and become disoriented. At that very moment, keep cool and get on the instruments. We all have had some basic instrument training and these situations would be an IDEAL time to use it. You have two options at this point: one, you can turn around. This is what I recommend. Two, you can continue. If you choose to continue there are important questions you need to ask yourself without much of a delay.

How well do I know the route and what obstacles are ahead of me? Should I be climbing? I would much rather fly a little higher with limited forward visibility and the ground in site, than be tree top. Have I reached the half way mark? Is there another airport that I passed along the route that I can return to? What's the weather at my destination and what type of approach aids are available? Am I current with IFR procedures? And finally, what kind of instrumentation do I have available?

These questions need to be answered in the matter of a seconds depending on how familiar you are with the route. You can't fly in the soup for too long without knowing where you are. If you are unfamiliar, I can't stress the importance of maintaining a safe altitude. If your well above the obstacles, you will be more relaxed and able to focus on the solution to the challenge at hand.

I know to some of you this information is new and I'm pleased I have been able to share it with you. Fly safe, and keep it rubber side down.


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