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IFR Fix: Five reasons to get seriously currentIFR Fix: Five reasons to get seriously current

What instrument pilot isn’t tempted to shoot some familiar approaches, race around a holding pattern, and pronounce oneself fit to move forward after a long winter’s hibernation?

Photo Mike Fizer.

Here’s a better idea—for instrument-rated pilots and those returning to IFR training. As sharp as you may feel for taking on meteorological mayhem on a reductionist recurrency regimen, pilots keep encountering a staggering assortment of sketchy scenarios that could have been avoided by rushing less and training more.

  • When all else fails, read the instructions: In the excitement of the first time solo under IFR, a new instrument pilot irked air traffic control by deviating from a published departure procedure. After the flight, the confused pilot sought counsel from an instructor, who “chuckled and told me the turning maneuver I had chosen was the lost communications procedure,” the pilot recounted in an Aviation Safety Reporting System filing.
  • VFR and IFR are different rules—right? Clouds got in the way for a noncurrent pilot of a Beechcraft Bonanza after departing a towered airport under special VFR. “I descended to about 300 ft msl over the water before deciding that the only safe option was to climb. I climbed to about 2,500 ft msl, breaking out on top of the marine layer about 2,000 ft MSL.” Unfortunately, the flight “briefly” penetrated Class E airspace without a clearance, the pilot reported to ASRS.
  • Long day’s (IFR) journey into (VFR at) night: At the end of a cross-country instrument training flight, a Cessna 210 pilot was cleared for a visual approach after reporting a hard-to-spot urban airport in sight. But it wasn’t—and the sinking Centurion triggered a low-altitude alert. The pilot attributed the error partly to fatigue and partly to transitioning from instruments to visual flight.
  • Separation anxiety: An instrument instructor and pilot who were squeezing in one final flight before the pilot's instrument-rating practical test "flew for 90 minutes and landed and parked before we noticed the tow bar was still attached."
  • There’s an SFAR? Even if you are comfortable navigating the complicated regulation that determines instrument recency-of-experience rules, better study the special federal aviation regulation that took effect during the coronavirus pandemic. We created a flowchart to help you determine applicability. Check back soon, because we also asked the FAA to extend provisions that expire June 30.
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: Training and Safety, Advanced Training, IFR

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