Pilot flying in clouds
12 min read

Unlike riding a bike, flying an airplane is a perishable skill, and instrument skills might have the shortest shelf life of all. The FAA explicitly recognizes this in FAR 61.57: a flight review is due every 24 months, but instrument currency lapses after only six. Accident statistics support this cautious approach. AOPA data from 2021 show that 17% of fatal accidents happened in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC)—not much at first glance, but considering how few hours are spent in IMC it’s quite high. Look at the data another way and you’ll find that 81% of accidents in IMC were fatal. So while the typical VFR accident is a runway excursion that results in bent metal but no fatalities, the typical IFR accident is a fatal loss of control crash.

That doesn’t mean IFR flying should be avoided—in fact, I find it incredibly rewarding—but we have to acknowledge that the margins are simply too thin to tolerate poor performance. Earning an instrument rating is not enough to make you a safer pilot; consistent flying and ongoing training is absolutely essential to unlock the benefits of that rating. But what kind of training?

In a perfect world we would practice everything from RNAV arrivals to partial panel flying to holding patterns. Then again, we should all do five hours of cardio and five hours of strength training every week, but somehow most of us don’t find time to do that either. So assuming you are busy and have to make hard choices about what to focus on, I think there’s a strong case to be made for spending your precious flying time on basic attitude instrument skills. Flying approaches to minimums or practicing emergencies may be more fun, but those procedures are not where pilots make the most fatal mistakes.

From the NTSB reports

For proof, browse through the accident reports. They are littered with IFR accidents in the first three minutes of flight. Right after takeoff, when the airplane has just entered the clouds and perhaps made its first turn, pilots lose control. This is rarely caused by equipment failures or blatant rule breaking. The sad reality is that pilots are failing at the essential task of instrument flying: keep the airplane right side up.

Flight track

Far too many NTSB reports include flight path recreations like this—loss of control after takeoff.

Here are three representative examples, all from the last five years, all fatal accidents in IMC, all shortly after takeoff. You can find many, many more in the NTSB database.

1. In 2019, an A36 Bonanza in Texas took off into a 300 foot overcast and didn’t get far. The weather was certainly low, but the airplane didn’t care. The problem seems to have been the pilot:

“The airplane departed and was seen on radar before contact was lost shortly thereafter; the pilot never established radio communication with air traffic control. The airplane impacted terrain in a near-vertical attitude about 1/2-mile from the departure runway.”

2. Likewise, the pilot of a Grumman AA5 departed from College Park, Maryland, where the ceilings were reported at 500 feet. He had an IFR clearance and made contact with ATC, but then lost control:

“The airplane departed runway 15, maintained an approximate heading of between 140° and 150°, and climbed for about 1 mile as it tracked slightly right of the extended runway centerline. When the airplane reached an altitude of about 1,200 ft the pilot established communication with air traffic control and was instructed to climb to 5,000 ft and turn to a 310° heading once the airplane climbed above 1,700 ft. The airplane then entered a right turn and climbed to about 1,900 ft before entering a right spiraling descent.”

3. A Cessna 182 in North Carolina added the extra challenge of night to the mix, with tragic results:

“The clearance that the pilot received from air traffic control stipulated that after departure, the airplane was to turn about 50° left of the runway heading. Radar data showed that the airplane instead climbed along the departure runway heading for about 1 minute, and witnesses described that the airplane entered IMC around 200 to 300 feet above the ground. When the airplane reached an altitude of about 860 ft above ground level (agl), it entered a right turn. The airplane reached the top of its climb about 930 ft agl, and continued a tightening right turn while descending at an estimated rate of about 6,000 feet per minute.”

Obviously a 300-500 foot ceiling is low, but airline and business jet pilots depart into these conditions every day with a near-flawless safety record. GA pilots don’t do nearly as well at making a quick transition from VMC takeoff to IMC climb. It’s also notable that in many of these examples the pilot seemed to lose control shortly after contacting ATC or making a turn. This suggests a fairly low level of hand-flying proficiency, where a small distraction was enough to start the spiral (in many cases, quite literally).

What about weather? 

We often read about how “weather accidents” are a leading cause of fatal crashes. That is true according to the way AOPA and the NTSB categorize accidents, but about half of these are VFR-into-IMC and thus should not be a problem for current instrument pilots. Another 40% are categorized as “poor IFR technique,” like the examples above. That’s 90% of all weather accidents due to pilot error.

So are such accidents really caused by weather? It’s not like the pilots flew into severe icing or a thunderstorm. In those cases, the airplane can get overwhelmed; here, it was the pilot who got overwhelmed. Preventing loss of control on initial climb doesn’t require better weather forecasts, advanced avionics, or new procedures. It just demands better training and more proficient pilots.

Pilot flying in clouds

The airplane doesn’t care about clouds, but the pilot certainly does.

Of course some “weather” accidents are less a result of poor skills than outright recklessness. It’s hard to see how this Cessna 172 flight in South Dakota would not end in disaster:

“The airplane was tagged as not airworthy and sat on the ramp for several days until the pilot decided to fly the airplane on the night of the accident. The pilot, who held only a student pilot certificate, had low flight time, and was not instrument-rated, departed the airport in dark night instrument meteorological conditions (IMC). There were no records of the pilot contacting any services for weather reports.”

Don’t be that guy.

What about avionics?

If weather isn’t the main issue, perhaps the avionics are playing a role in these loss of control accidents? It’s a popular theory these days and I think the answer is a qualified yes, but it’s important to be clear about the specific problems and their possible solutions. There are really two scenarios (at least): 

  1. Pilots aren’t proficient with their avionics and this causes a loss of situational awareness—the “old pilots getting behind new technology” theory.
  2. Pilots are relying too much on autopilots and their hand-flying skills are degrading—the “automation-dependent pilots” theory.

These are related problems, but the second one seems most pressing. The fact that so many accidents happen right after takeoff suggests that the active use of avionics isn’t the main problem. After all, it’s not like the autopilot failed or the pilot didn’t use it properly—it was probably never engaged. But that same autopilot may be on so often that the pilot in the left seat, who may only hand-fly the first few minutes of most flights, has lost proficiency at instrument scanning and interpretation. There are plenty of studies that back up this gut feel, including one from Embry-Riddle that found: “pilots who are more likely to use automated modes of modern ‘glass cockpit’ aircraft have a less effective crosscheck and reduced manual flight skills.”

Likewise, a Flight Safety Foundation report described how pilots don’t know what they don’t know: “Although most pilots in the study agreed that their instrument skills have declined over time, their survey responses indicated that they felt they could still fly basic instrument maneuvers. However, their survey responses do not correlate with their actual maneuver grades, leading to the conclusion that the pilots had a false sense of confidence.”

Case closed?

It’s intuitive that the increasing popularity of autopilots has caused an erosion of hand-flying skills, and it makes a great topic for a hangar flying rant (“kids these days and their gadgets!”). But before we get too carried away bashing modern avionics, some perspective is in order. First, new technology offers plenty of benefits in addition to its distractions. Solid state AHRS systems have saved countless lives by replacing unreliable vacuum pumps, and moving map GPSs have prevented plenty of controlled flight into terrain accidents. That’s easy to forget, but I find it tragic to read about pilots who lost their lives because their attitude indicator died, when that possibility could have been eliminated by a Garmin G5 or even an iPad app. If you can afford to fly IFR in 2024, you can afford an AHRS.

G1000 panel

Modern avionics are not all bad, and there’s no reason you can’t use the flight director while hand flying.

Second, moving map GPS, datalink weather, autopilots, and glass cockpits are not going away, so it’s incumbent upon pilots to learn how to use them. I’ve flown with some pilots who have spent six figures on a new panel, but exhibit shocking gaps in knowledge about their new toys. That’s absolutely inexcusable. Avionics proficiency—and by that I mean really knowing how it works, not just direct-to navigation on the GPS or heading mode on the autopilot—is not trivia or bonus knowledge, it is critical for safe IFR flying. If this isn’t part of your next flight review or instrument proficiency check, you should demand it.

Beyond those obvious points, a more uncomfortable fact emerges from the data: most instrument pilots just don’t fly enough. Two innovative studies by Douglas Boyd, a pilot and aviation safety researcher, tell the story quite clearly.

In the first one, Boyd studied active airline pilots who also flew GA airplanes to see whether it was the airplane or the pilot that made airline flying so safe. As he put it: “are airline pilots superior to their instrument-rated private pilot (PPL-IFR) counterparts as evidenced by a reduced proportion of: (a) accidents attributed to an in-flight loss-of-control in degraded visibility…” Similar GA airplanes, similar weather conditions, but different pilots—is the safety record different? The answer was an emphatic yes: “In degraded visibility, 0 and 40% (χ2 p = 0.043) of fatal accidents involving airline and PPL-IFR airmen were due to in-flight loss-of-control, respectively.” 

To put it more crudely than Boyd would probably prefer, it’s not the jet engines or the second pilot or the strict rules that make airline pilots safer; it’s the experience (both lifetime and recent) and the regular training.

If the first study should make us think, the second one should make us blush. Boyd used a novel (if not completely foolproof) method to investigate how many GA pilots actually fly six approaches in six months: “Over the Aug 2020-Mar 2021 period, 1,684 flights involving 106 aircraft/owners were ADS-B-tracked. Of these aircraft/owners, 81.2% completed < six approaches (median = 1.5).” That’s not a great score: the median pilot flew less than two approaches in the six month timeframe, and 40% flew none at all, but most of those are probably VFR pilots. There’s more, though: “Importantly, for aircraft/owners completing < six approaches in the preceding 6 months, 24% departed into obscuration.” So in spite of being legally out of currency, nearly a quarter of pilots still took off into IMC. The study goes on to show that nearly half took off into marginal VFR!

You can quibble with the design of this study (maybe pilots were maintaining currency in a simulator, for example), but in reading the footnotes it’s clear that Boyd went to a lot of trouble to clean up the data. The most likely answer is what many of us know in our hearts: we just don’t fly enough. So before we get too righteous about the crippling effects of technology, we should look in the mirror. 

A realistic plan

At some point, next generation software (like FlightOS) might make flying so easy that less proficiency is needed. I actually think this might be possible at some point in the future, but it’s a long way off for GA pilots. In the meantime, the solution is much lower tech: we need to create a culture that supports and demands continuous training. The pros show the way here—airlines and Part 135 operators have incredibly good safety records, and a huge part of that is their rigorous training. This goes far beyond a pencil-whip flight review every two years, with multiple checkrides each year, regular simulator sessions, and line checks with experienced pilots. GA pilots can adopt a lightweight version of this, which many insurance underwriters demand anyway for higher performance airplanes. 

Airplane instruments

Focusing on those four instruments is what counts.

It’s not just the formal training events that make an airline pilot safe, though. After all, the pilots in Boyd’s first study didn’t have full motion simulators for their Bonanzas or Mooneys. A key benefit to being an airline pilot seems to be a regular flying cadence. It might be in a jet instead of a piston, but it’s still flying in the IFR system. That suggests that GA pilots don’t need to get too hung up on how they fly or who they fly with. Just go fly. 

Flight simulators are a great option if you don’t get to the airport as often as you’d like, and while they can’t simulate crosswind landings very well, they can realistically simulate basic attitude instrument flying. If you want to step it up a level, focus on hand-flying your next flight in VMC, and do it as precisely as you can. Even better, wear a hood or training glasses to simulate IMC—and don’t cheat. Best of all, seek out real IMC on a regular basis, even if you have to find a flight instructor or a freight dog to ride along with you. There’s simply no substitute for flying in clouds and feeling all the sensations that come along with it.

The goal is simple and clear-cut: can you fly to the Airman Certification Standards? They state: “Maintain altitude ±100 feet during level flight, selected headings ±10°, airspeed ±10 knots, and bank angles ±5° during turns.” 

It sounds so easy. But as anyone who’s ever logged time in the clouds knows, to do it consistently takes discipline, focus, and practice. Lots and lots of practice.

John Zimmerman
Latest posts by John Zimmerman (see all)
22 replies
  1. Enderson Rafael
    Enderson Rafael says:

    Spot on! IFR is a killer if not treated with respect. As much as I remember how disoriented I felt on my first IMC lesson during the Instrument training in a Cessna 172, I do remember how comfortable was to, years later, fly precise IMC on another C172 (also a sic pack one) after a thousand hours in the airlines, where we do it every day pretty much. No easy answer, but some good suggestions right there. Bottom line is, “with great powers comes great responsibilities”, and an IFR rating is exactly that case.

    Reply
  2. Bartr
    Bartr says:

    “Fly more”, problem solved. GA pilots will NEVER be able to fly or train in IFR enough to maintain their proficiency……Back when I still flew IFR in my Bonanza I found myself going to the airplane to fly “for fun” a lot and that flying involved a lot of procedures, approaches and study on how to manipulate the avionics but I still couldn’t fly “enough”. I could pass the IPC and use the airplane for its intended purpose but it took hours and hours of flying with the associated expense of fuel and maintenance to maintain even a semblance of proficiency even with all the personal limits I put on myself regarding conditions under which I would fly actual IFR. I finally decided I don’t need to be anywhere badly enough to fly in the weather or at night so I don’t do it anymore. My flight planning is now more involved with avoiding weather than trying to maintain a schedule. When I fly for fun it’s fun. For most GA pilots trying to fly a GA airplane on a schedule is a recipe for disaster.

    Reply
  3. Duane Mader
    Duane Mader says:

    Thanks John. Good stuff.
    It may sound silly but I still try to make myself fly the old Microsoft Flight Sim 10 regularly. I just get in the Lear 45 and fly a big rectangular pattern in minimums weather to an ILS. First trip or two around are usually rough. Soon the scan speeds up to keep up with the less than ideal controls and the tiny instruments.
    When I go out to fly or have a FlightSafety recurrent it is noticeably better having done that. Even my landings improve.
    Cost = $0.00

    Reply
    • Dale
      Dale says:

      This is absolutely spot on. I regularly use my flight simulator to practice IFR approaches, holds, departures, and many other IFR procedures. I would not fly IFR anymore if I couldn’t practice on the simulator. It absolutely helps when you get back into the aircraft. Especially, if you are using the exact same panel and the same type of aircraft you normally fly. Everything is in the correct position, you know automatically what buttons to push and where the airplane is supposed to be during the procedure. It helps to get you IFR coordinated and really helps with your instrument scan. I have a G1000 system and my simulator does an excellent job of copying that flight system right down to use of the entire panel, including the autopilot, radios, vor and instrument approach and departure procedures. Again, if I couldn’t use my simulator to practice IFR procedures, I simply wouldn’t fly IFR anymore. I can’t get enough instrument time in the airplane to feel comfortable, but with the simulator, it not only makes me feel comfortable in the plane, but I feel fully coordinated when doing maneuvers in instrument conditions in my aircraft.

      Reply
  4. Allen
    Allen says:

    Up here in the NE winter wx keeps most of us from flying actual in the winter and I’ve found an FBO with a RedBird sim helps a lot to keep the currency. Is it as good as real IFR? By no means but at least it keeps a scan going and it’s cheap enough you don’t mind an extra hour if you want to work on more complex problems.

    Reply
  5. SR-F
    SR-F says:

    Both PPL/IFR Rated flew our own & rented Piper Arrows all over NA, Europe, Australia (Vfr only allowed though not forecast sandstorm forced the IFR option), NZ & UK keeping up procedures+ practice in between trips, Dual IFR is the safest way for GA pilots to travel.
    Subsequently playing safety pilot for a friend working for a twin IFR rating was stunned to discover he was under the misapprehension he did but really didn’t fully know his avionics. Lesson learned Never assume/take anything for granted: Review/Revise/comprehend/practice all skills/fully know your equipment & avionics “Before you go”‼️

    Reply
  6. Low Wings
    Low Wings says:

    Hi John,
    Another insightful article with a nice summation. But, as you know, these issues are not new and have been discussed ad nauseum. One FSDO inspector here in Boise told me their records were showing local pilots were flying an average of about 20—25 hours per year, mostly in VMC.

    So, the question seems to be not so much about the causes of accidents but what to do about the systemic voids in initial and recurrent training and the voids in pilot behaviors after initial credentials are obtained. It seems like accidents can’t be prevented by any regulatory intervention, but many can be avoided by changes in attitudes, being aware of inherent risks, assessing/evaluating those risks and determining and implementing best mitigation strategies. Many pilots are unaware of the risks that may be encountered on a given flight and fail to mitigate (avoid) those risks. Once encountered, lack of preparation reveals deficiencies in knowledge, skills and experience. The forces of nature patrol, defend and enforce the boundaries of good practice and will, without apologies, remorse or appeal, simply destroy hapless pilots, other occupants and aircraft that violate those boundaries. The number of accidents seems to be at an irreducible level that won’t fall further without culture changes in pilot training, certification standards and, of course, pilot attitudes and behaviors.

    Reply
    • John Zimmerman
      John Zimmerman says:

      You’re right that this is not a new problem – maybe that’s what I find so frustrating about it. To me, more regulation is not the answer, but I do think we can improve our training industry. The current training system does a decent job of helping pilots who are on a career track: they earn an instrument rating but will learn the finer points during airline training. They’ll also fly in a two-pilot cockpit with turbine engines and modern avionics. Flying single pilot IFR in a piston airplane is an entirely different thing, and I don’t think the average instrument syllabus prepares pilots very well for it. As I said, I’m not suggesting we add a “single pilot GA” instrument rating, but we should recognize that it’s a unique challenge.

      Reply
  7. Scott A. Smith
    Scott A. Smith says:

    I agree with everything that has been said. There is no substitute for just doing it. There are some great studies investigating accidents where human performance was a major cause. The biggest factor is with someone thinking they were proficient and operating at a professional level when they really were not proficient either due to experience, lack of recent experience, lack of training, or lack of proper training. Depending on the proficiency level for the task, determines how quickly you could fall out of the professional level. I would suggest that flying in IMC takes a high level of professional proficiency and therefore we fall out of proficiency in a short amount of time. I love flying IMC but I don’t do it now because I can’t stay at a professional proficient level with the amount of flying I do. The airline pilots do have some advantages, it is their everyday job, they can blast out above there bad weather with their jet engines and pressurized cabins, and they are getting paid to do it while we are paying to do it. Everyone fly safe and develop your own personal standards for flying in IMC just like you developed your standards for your minimums when flying IMC, i.e. make sure when you are getting the IMC experience that the author recommended, that you are operating at the professional level needed to get the experience safely.

    Reply
  8. William J. “Jeff” Edwards
    William J. “Jeff” Edwards says:

    John,

    Your article and Boyd’s research agrees with my own experience as an aircraft accident investigator and academic researcher. Twelve cases I investigated involved single pilot loss of control in IMC due to lack of currency/ proficiency. Many were logging actual IFR and actual approaches even though it was “clear blue and 22”. Some had upwards of 30% of their flight time logged as actual. That is a red flag if you see it. I published one account of this phenomena at Purdue University Journal of Aviation and Technology. Since my research I have encountered several more accidents involving the same. Unfortunately, some pilots don’t know the difference between flying on an IFR flight plan and logging actual IFR. Better training would help.

    Reply
    • SR-F
      SR-F says:

      “Better training would help” applies to EVERY facet of the Pilot training process, ab initio training likely the most important area since it can make or break a budding pilot’s career aspirations…and too often does because CFI’s are generally not “educators” & are using teaching positions as stepping stones to their own bigger & better goals, the all too frequent result inadequate Basic instruction that has ramifications throughout subsequent learning progressions…fact being that “when you don’t know that you don’t know you can’t know what the need to know” makes that initial instruction the most important time of any pilot’s learning curve upon which all future progress is based.

      Reply
  9. Stephen Shore
    Stephen Shore says:

    I have always thought that IFR departures were far more challenging that approaches. Approaches are typically flown by GPS or ATC vectors to get established beginning at a high altitude well above the worries of terrain. It just seems more “precision” than taking off with ceilings at 700′ AGL and terrain directly in front of your departure path. I was always taught to hand fly the departure because if the AP “cratered” on takeoff you might not have time to intervene and take control of the airplane before something bad happened. Unfortunately, I have been in the right seat with a PIC that engaged the AP immediately after takeoff. When questioned, they claim that it flys far more precisely than they could by hand and therefore it was “safer”. Well, maybe until the trim runs away or the servo goes out.

    Reply
    • Alexander Sack
      Alexander Sack says:

      What do you think the big iron pilots do on take-off? Hand fly every departure because their afraid of their A/P malfunctioning? I sure hope not.

      Every pilot should know how to deactivate their A/P in case it malfunctions. Especially on departure. But generally speaking, using a modern, sophisticated A/P, e.g., GFC500, is SOP can be a life saver.

      Reply
  10. Tim Decker
    Tim Decker says:

    John – good article and I wholeheartedly agree. I always recommend that the new IFR pilot file and fly IFR every flight after they receive their certificate (except sightseeing and maintenance test flights), AND that they schedule at least one IFR recurrent training flight every 6 months with their CFII. I’ve even had a few that schedule recurrent training more frequently. These pilots consistently show much better proficiency and I believe are safer.

    Reply
  11. Gary Ernest Garavaglia
    Gary Ernest Garavaglia says:

    Thank you John! Always great writing and information. The FAA WINGS program is a proven way for pilots to get regular routine training in both ground and flight topics, in addition to a number of other benefits. It would be great if the FLYING publications family would emphasize how effective the WINGS program can be for maintaining proficiency and increasing skills along the way. Statistics about participants in the program tell the story. Flying 3 flights a year and reviewing ground topics 3 times a year mimics a continual ongoing training process that can only make us better.

    Thank you for your work!

    Reply
  12. Joe
    Joe says:

    I concur on needing to fly more.
    200 hr/year (17 hr/month) is my goal.
    Typically I’ll log 3-4 hours a month for business.
    Then I generally talk myself into 1-2 hour training flight once a month.
    Angel Flight missions fill out my schedule.
    I’m a big fan of Angel Flight:
    Passengers get transportation.
    Pilots get flying-time plus the satisfaction of helping others.
    Angel flights involve the mental exercise of going into less-common airports and coordinating with passengers, etc. Good exercise.
    Joe

    Reply
  13. Don Rieser
    Don Rieser says:

    For many years I flew with a old fighter pilot instructor for my BFRs and IPCs. Every time he would be sure I did unusual attitudes. He would insist I just look down and do a few turns by feel. That demonstrates very quickly the need for instruments in IMC. He was not afraid to let me get in pretty serious unusual attitudes before he gave the OK to look at the instruments, and would emphasize the need to address throttle, roll and pitch in the correct order. I miss that guy and those exercises. To Joe’s point, I’ve been flying Pilots n Paws flights for 16 years now. It keeps the hours up and provides enough approach opportunities in IMC to keep current without much hood time.

    Reply
  14. SKYKON
    SKYKON says:

    I’d like to know what percentage of GA pilots with an IFR rating “love” to fly in the clouds? Certainly an unknowable but I opine that pilots who are comfortable, at ease and look forward to flight in IMC could go months or even years without adherence to mandated IPC currency requirements/reviews – and still get back into an airplane and conduct a safe flight to low minimums in the clouds.

    For example, would pilots with an engineering degree be more at ease in IMC than a pilot with a history degree? Maybe the premise of my question to an unknowable answer is that those pilots with currency that are fearful and tense in IMC are more likely to make errors leading to accidents than pilots who may not be current but truly enjoy flight in IMC – will have a superior (lower) accident rate?

    If this premise has some validity, then one could conclude that those who enjoy and are relaxed during flight in IMC don’t need to meet the rigid FAA mandated currency rules to be safe in the clouds. Maybe one size does not fit all.

    Reply
  15. Jim C
    Jim C says:

    Iirc, Chuck Yeager wrote the best fliers he flew against in mock dogfights, had the most flying time. It corroborates what you said.

    Reply
  16. Ross
    Ross says:

    Fly, Fly, Fly. There is no substitute for filing IFR and flying in the system often with and without an autopilot. We need coupled and uncoupled approaches because preparation and setup is different for both. Long time in actual IMC in the system is vital to becoming comfortable after the rating is obtained. Fly, Fly, Fly.

    Reply
  17. Chares Lloyd
    Chares Lloyd says:

    I instruct at a Wichita Flight School in a Frasca RTD (C172S G1000Nxi, Piper Seminole G1000NXi and C172 Classic Garmin 430S Configurations). We use the Frasca for 20 hours of the 40 hours for experience for an Instrument Rating as a student option, The weather conditions we can create are very close the realistic weather conditions you will see in an airplane. This training is a step ahead of what you receive with Foggles.

    The challenge is to get pilots to come back to use the Frasca for instrument currency. We are in the process for developing a “Aero Club” where pilot will cone train monthly approach. There will be 12 different subject focuses. One for each month. The scenarios covered are to summarize:
    All approaches including Back Course,
    DME Arcs including how to intercept the arc (this technique in available from the 430W upward,
    Holding other than those published
    FAR 91.175 (Descent Below Minimums with Approach Environment in Sight)
    VNAV (Descend via Arrival)
    Abnormal and Emergency Procedures
    GPS Outages (Captain what are you going to do now!)

    This will be more technique dependent rather than focusing on the exact model aircraft you fly dependent.

    So far talking to GA pilots about this type training seems to generate more interest than the classic (“Come back and train every six months training does.).

    John, time will tell. Thanks for a thought provoking article.

    Reply
  18. Steve Yucht
    Steve Yucht says:

    Excellent and spot on article! Flying solely GA 150-200 hrs/yr I absolutely can tell if I haven’t flown approaches down to minimums in a while. I have a hard rule to always hand fly the first 1000ft before the AP comes on and always hand fly the approach from the FAF even if I am in hard IFR down to minimums. One way to keep the muscle memory up is to always fly in the system and almost always fly a full approach. As said in a post above, I also believe that remaining calm during an approach is essential to good outcomes (VMC or IMC) and repetition builds proficiency which in turn keeps anxiety in check. In GA an IFR rating is only a tool in the bag of tricks. Any tool can get rusty but this one can go bad fast. Those of us who love to fly in the clouds (vs. have to fly in them for a living) respect this.

    Reply

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