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IFR Fix: An uneasy compromise

A high-performance single is proceeding to the Linden VOR for a full VOR-B approach to Virginia’s Front Royal-Warren County Airport. The instrument flight instructor has just advised the pilot/owner, who is undergoing an instrument proficiency check in actual instrument conditions, to allow some airspeed margin for a sudden, unexpected accretion of rime that began during the descent.

A brief discussion follows. The pilot normally flies approaches in the 140-knot aircraft at 85 to 95 knots. From past experience, the pilot has developed deep respect for icing of any type or extent; one lesson about that came long ago from a drop-in landing that happened at a surprisingly high airspeed. Of the many learning experiences accumulated over years of flying, that one had been among the most vivid, especially for a pilot well-read about airframe icing who had thought himself knowledgeable enough to avoid any such occurrence.

Well, he wasn’t the first "expert" ever humbled by an icing encounter. And here was a chance for redemption.

Not only would he fly the approach flaps-up, he informed the CFII, but he would maintain a generous airspeed margin at every phase while remaining poised for any sign of buffeting or icing-induced control decay.

"No more than 120 knots, please," said the instructor.

Why the limiting-airspeed?

Visualizing the flight’s next few minutes, the pilot could see the awkwardness of the piloting scenario he faced.

With a final approach course defined by Linden’s 335-degree radial, the angle between the course and Runway 10/28 demands considerable maneuvering to circle-to-land in either direction. Excess speed would be a liability. Also, the minimum descent altitude, 3,300 feet, leaves an aircraft at a lofty height above the airport’s 704-foot field elevation. (Note that the altimeter setting for the approach comes from Winchester, about 18 DME away along the ridge line to the north.)

At a more capacious airport, a fast approach would pose no problem. But here, given the growing list of constraints and conditions, the 3,007-foot-long runway must also be considered a factor, even more so if it is wet.

Reviewing the plate, the pilot now recalls that the instrument approach is only authorized for approach Category A or B aircraft. As Page 4-8 of the Instrument Procedures Handbook explains, an approach in Category B aircraft must be flown at less than 121 knots, as the CFII reminded him.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: IFR, IFR, Technique

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