IFR Fix: Green, on paper

December 27, 2013

An off-duty mainline pilot appeared at the FBO counter, intent on snagging a CFI for "three crash-and-go’s" before renting a Cessna single for a local flight.

Turned out he almost wasn’t kidding.

The snagged instructor knew from experience to be ready for anything. But even high skepticism was barely enough to keep the first approach—over the bay, where a downdraft lurks in windy conditions—from decrepitating. Had the instructor been lulled or gulled by the prickly pilot’s pretensions, you might be reading this vignette in an NTSB accident report: "The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be the pilot's failure to maintain directional control during the landing flare/touchdown, which resulted in a runway excursion…. A contributing factor was the instructor’s delayed remedial action."

On paper, the pilot flying had more experience than the part-time CFI, if no recent time in singles. The CFI had another edge: He knew about the downdraft—valuable intelligence for assessing the skill and reactions of the pilot under review.

In that scenario, who is the more experienced pilot?  Describe both pilots to a nonpilot passenger. Crashandgo wins the beauty contest. But is he the one you’d pick to fly your trainer around the pattern on a windy day?

Several readers discussed how experiences transform to experience in response to the Dec. 13, 2013 "IFR Fix: The sig in sigmet," which described an icing scenario on a proficiency flight taken by two low-time CFIIs. The icing encounter was a first for both—one from which they narrowly escaped.  

Good stuff, those reader comments. One shared thoughts from an ice encounter on a trip in a Cessna T210, with the family aboard. Another, also a Turbo Centurion pilot, responded about how to use terrain, mountain weather patterns, and accumulated knowledge to plan IFR flights.

A third reader wondered what was wrong with a picture of two CFIIs with 10 hours of "actual" between them, and no taste of "controlled icing" holding certificates to teach the instrument rating. That’s a hot-button issue, and a climatological conundrum, for IFR training in many places.

Credit the two CFIIs with seeking out experience where it lives. On paper, you can color them green, but IFR has taught them a lot in a short time.

Has IFR ever taken you outside your experience level? Share the lessons.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz | Aviation Writer

Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor. He has been a pilot since 1985 and an instructor since 1990.