All posts tagged 'IMC'

Your 2021 Guide to Flying Into Aspen, CO

A lot of pilots will tell you flying into Aspen, Colorado (KASE) isn't really that bad. But if this is your first time going into that airport, especially if you're single pilot, it can be a little intimidating. 

The best way to stay safe going into KASE is to be prepared. Do your homework and have a plan in your head of how you'll fly the approach inbound! Have no worry, we're here to help give advice and links to the best information the internet has to offer!

1) Youtube

One of the best inventions of the 21st century, Youtube has a lot of aviation videos ranging from general aviation discussions for student pilots, accident reviews, and then how-to guides for difficult approaches such as Aspen. From researching the internet and asking pilots their opinions, I found two helpful links:

Aspen Missed Approach - that shows two pilots coming in and having to go missed on the actual approach back in 2010. They get set up early, stay ahead of the airplane, keep talking through the approach the entire time, then make a decision to go missed and head into Eagle (KEGE) which most use as their alternate. 

Aspen LOC DME-E and Visual Approach - this is more from the single pilot standpoint to show the workload and is just another good video showing what it's like setting up for everything from a Phenom 300

Coming in on the visual it's going to look like you're gliding on top of a mountain (pictured above), then it drops off and it seems like you're way too high above the airport (1st picture). As you keep following the approach in it'll transition to looking like you're too low. Trust the approach even if your visual cues disagree and continue to stay stable. 

2) Simulator

If you can get in a full motion sim before your trip this is a great idea. If you're going to training anytime soon, ask to do a trip into there. The simulator going into Aspen is very realistic, not to mention this is the safest way to make mistakes and have an instructor with you giving you all the best tips and tricks. 

In the simulator you an also adjust temperatures and other weather factors. This can give you a chance to see how performance changes and what it feels like gaining less performance from your aircraft. High density altitude, high temperature, add a tailwind in there and it makes for a "fun" day....if you can even take the runway. 

3) Familiarization Course

Something that you can heavily review before your trip or even better review in addition to your simulator training is a familiarization course. A great presentation is one published by Code 7700: ASE Familiarization Training that also includes the departure procedures. It includes pictures, approach charts, even landmarks to help you locate the airport and an arrival training video.

4) Phone a Friend

Along with reviewing these, I also took advantage of more experienced pilots and asked for their stories before flying in! Of course it helps to ask pilots flying the same type aircraft as you so maybe they can say which power setting or airspeed works best. 

Text an instructor from training if you have their number, ask a friend if you know one, or find a forum (like a Facebook group) to start a discussion on. 

There are lots of resources out there nowadays that can help keep you safe and confident. And if you still feel uncomfortable, trust your gut and have a different crew fly it. Or fly into Eagle instead! 

Thanks for checking out this article, wishing you the best on your trips! If you have any great links or advice to add comment below!

How to Handle Emergencies in IMC

Happy Valentines Day from everyone at Globalair.com! We hope this week's post finds you in good standing and staying warm this time of year :)

Wing Tip of Piston Aircraft

I am writing this post for two reasons:

1) This time of year is when IFR, including low IFR, tends to move in more often

2) I had a friend lose all 3 gyro instruments in IFR with thunderstorms nearby and moderate turbulence too, so we discussed all the aspects of the incident and what could have been handled/prepared for better

Flying IMC is no joke, but especially when you're flying it in smaller older model planes that tend to have a lot of recurring maintenance issues. A small issue can quickly turn into a big problem if not handled correctly. 

So the best way to handle in-flight emergencies IMC? Prepare for them.

As previously mentioned, in GA flying it's the older model planes that things are more likely to break and put you in a bad situation. Especially if you have a 6 pack versus a glass cockpit. This doesn't mean that glass cockpits are foolproof, but usually, when you have a failure it's easier to recognize. A perfect example of this is having a loss of the attitude indicator and heading indicator. In the traditional 6 pack, this most commonly happens due to a vacuum system failure.

You have to be watching your instruments closely to see one of the visual cues:

-tumbling on the heading indicator

-lack of movement on the attitude indicator

-small red off flag indicating instrument failure

-loss of vacuum suction on the vacuum gauge

You can still have a gyroscopic failure aside from a vacuum system issue. In fact, there's no vacuum system in a glass cockpit and it is still possible to lose these. 

When an instrument is no longer reliable in a glass cockpit, the screen will display a large red X over it to indicate the failure. 

But then there's always the argument, what if I lose my entire PFD? Now you've completely lost everything. It's very rare, but it's possible. 

Here's the best solution I've come up with: buy 2 literal life-saving devices

Foreflight Pro Plus package (subscription a step up from the basic $99 package) and a Stratus or a Sentry. The stratus and the sentry are similar devices, the sentry is just about $300 cheaper. What both of these do is you program them when you turn them on in the plane and set them somewhere, and they'll connect to the Foreflight synthetic vision. While this isn't legally reliable, it is a LOT better than nothing when having a lost of instruments. 

Foreflight Pro iPad App

In the incident with my friend, they actually got into a graveyard spiral and LIVED. All 3 gyros stopped working and they lost 2400 feet in less than 20 seconds. As they heard the air speeding up over the wing they started to take out power and bring the nose up and luckily broke out of a 400-foot ceiling just in time. At this point, they got a contact approach and just landed at the nearest airport under priority landing.

How they're still alive is a miracle, but this all could have been avoided if they had synthetic vision as a backup. 

Another good way to be prepared is to know your plane. Have those emergency procedures and a game plan memorized so you're ready to act when something goes wrong. IMC is the worst time for something to go wrong. Imagine a scenario such as an engine failure, where are you going if you can't see? Always have an idea where you're at so you can see if there's an airport to spiral over or any major highways as well. Synthetic vision can still help with this too. 

There are endless scenarios of what can go wrong, from small inconveniences to life-threatening issues. It's best to always be on your toes ready for anything. 

Do you have any personal stories of flying IFR and having an in-flight emergency? Any tips to share too? Feel free to share below.

7 Practical Tips for Instrument Training

I am happy to report that in my pursuit of a career as a professional pilot, I successfully passed my Instrument Rating checkride a couple weeks ago. Although this is just a milestone along the long road to my goals, I am proud of how far I’ve come from my first attempt at flying an approach. Several pilots warned me that instrument training is more difficult than any other training, and I have to say that I now understand what they meant.

Instrument training was different from private training in a lot of ways. Everything that I had already spent hours learning and practicing was expected to be second nature to me at this point. This really hit home when I executed a poor traffic pattern and my instructor scolded me, saying, "This is PRIVATE stuff! You should know how to land." I could not longer struggle to control any part of my flight operations and blame it on still being a student. In a sense, you change from being a student of the airplane to a student of everything outside of the airplane. Factor in how you cannot see outside, and the learning curve suddenly gets that much more difficult.

Upon landing and being told I had passed my checkride, my DPE told me that he strongly believed that instrument training was more difficult than ATP training. This surprised me, and I will have to report back in a few years on if I find this true for myself or not. Regardless, my previous instructor’s warning that it will be like a "fire hose to the face" when I began training was definitely true. I struggled for months in the ground course and every flight seemed to make me feel more emotions than Private training did. If it was a good flight, I definitely knew it and felt like a champion. If it was a bad flight, it was more difficult to recover from and I felt more like a failure. I am sure this is because the acceptable margin of error in instrument flight is so small.

During my training I jotted down some notes on things I would like to tell other students currently working on their instrument rating. Hopefully some of these tips will be helpful for navigating the difficulties you will face along the way.

Accurate representation of what it feels like to study for the Instrument Written.

Knock out the Written Exam

There is nothing more frustrating than getting grounded during flight training because you haven’t completed a written test. It is policy at my school that if you have not passed the written test before you start the second "flight lab" (25 hours of training) then you cannot move forward. Even if the threat of being grounded is not looming over your head, the written is a huge hurdle to pass and I recommend taking it as soon as possible to get it out of the way. Some concepts are more difficult than Private, but it’s nothing that a few extra hours of studying cannot remedy.

Reference the Instrument "Know All" Handbook

My instructor sent me a link to this page early in our training and it was a game changer. It lays out the highlights of regulations and procedures in a way that is easily understood, and it is perfect for printing out and highlighting. I even made some sections into flash cards for further memorization. Being a pilot is about knowing how to use every resource available to you, and this is certainly a goldmine of helpful information.

Memorize Approach Plates you use Often

I would say that in almost every other flight lesson we flew over to KLEX and did an approach into whichever runway they were using. I became really familiar with the VOR-A, ILS, LOC, and RNAV approaches for 22 and 04. Knowing that I frequent these approaches so much, it was extremely beneficial to me when I sat down by myself and mentally flew the approach plates several times. It made the approach briefing less confusing, and helped me to understand exactly what I was doing as I went along. Even before a cross country, I recommend looking over the plates a few times to get familiar with them so that you are never a few miles out and looking at the plate for the first time.

Don’t Stress Over the Brief

When I first began my training, it seemed like every time we were getting close to the airport and I needed to brief the approach to my instructor my palms suddenly got sweaty. There was so much to go over. There is so little time. Don’t let yourself stress over the approach plates, and find an acronym or method that works best for YOU. I always use "FACTM" approach. Frequencies, Altitudes, Course, Time, and Missed. I go over this in my head, and find the information that relates to it on my approach plate.

Invest in Good Foggles/Hood

One thing that I almost got in trouble with during my checkride was the type of foggles I used. They are clear, except for the opaque white around the edges. When I was coming in on my final approach, I experienced a familiar phenomenon: a blinding glare from the sun. As we were coming straight towards the sun, it reflected off of the opaque part of my foggles and I could not see any of my instruments. I had this happen before but never to the extent of during my checkride. My extremely kind check airman held a binder up to block the glare as I finished the approach, and recommended that I look into a hood for future flights. Find what works best for you and consider all the possible negatives of all options.

Get into Actual IMC

Near the end of my training, when I was pretty comfortable with approaches, my instructor called me up on a particularly overcast and nasty looking day. He told me that I had better not think I wasn’t flying that day, and to get to the airport as soon as possible. That was the day that we went into real, solid, terrifying instrument meteorological conditions. Up to this moment I was sure that I could handle it, after all I had about 40 hours in simulated instrument conditions. Immediately when we burst into the clouds my entire body tensed up. It was the most disorienting experience I had ever had. I asked him to please take over the radios so that I could get a feel for it. I highly recommend going into IMC multiple times during your training to truly understand the mental aerobics that come with completely trusting what you see on the panel.

Keep a Reminder of Why You’re Doing it

I won’t lie, I thought about quitting a couple times during my training. Everyone said that Instrument training either makes or breaks you as a pilot, so I thought that if I could not get it down then I was not fit to be a professional pilot. I watched as a few of my friends switched majors or quit their training because it was just too difficult. Every time I had to remind myself that this has been my dream since I was a young girl, and I could not quit until I had given it all that I had. It absolutely pays off in the end if you dedicate the time and effort, and keep motivated.

I wish you all the best in your instrument training, and I hope that these tips will at least encourage you to stick with it. Stay safe and keep working hard towards your goals!

Are You Prepared for Instrument Failure in IMC?


Photo: Wikimedia/Meggar

Autumn is in full swing, and the cooler nights tend to make morning fog a common occurrence in many places. While fog might not be a problem for you if you are IFR-rated and current, it’s nevertheless a good time to review your emergency procedures – like instrument failures and partial panel procedures.

A failure of any instrument in the cockpit of your airplane is difficult enough to deal with during a VFR flight, but the proper procedures after an instrument failure in IMC can mean the difference between life and death. While we tend to remain "current" by flying IFR flight plans and instrument approaches on a daily or weekly basis, unless you work for a company that requires it, you probably don’t practice instrument failures or partial panel procedures enough.

Are you ready for an instrument failure in instrument conditions? After training your eyes and brain to "trust your instruments," can you immediately recognize instrument errors and reverse that deep-rooted feeling that your instruments must be correct?

Identifying instrument failures seems like an easy enough task – after all, if an instrument is behaving erratically, there’s a good chance it’s malfunctioning - but it’s difficult for our brains to determine exactly what’s happening at first glance when an instrument fails, and sometimes the failure occurs slowly, such as the slow icing over of a pitot tube. And that’s only the first part of the emergency. The second part is responding correctly. While in the clouds without correct instrument indications, knowing which way is up can be puzzling to even the most experienced pilots. Here’s a quick review about how instruments react to common types of failures in many light aircraft.

***This is not a substitute for instruction. Please consult your aircraft’s POH for emergency procedures specific to your airplane! ***

Pitot-Static System Failure:
A problem with the static system will appear on the airspeed indicator, altimeter or vertical speed indicator (VSI), or a combination of the three.

  • Blocked Pitot Tube: A pitot tube blocked with insects is a common culprit of erroneous airspeed indications. This type of blockage might be noticed during takeoff, when the airspeed doesn’t increase as usual. With a total pitot tube blockage, the airspeed will read ‘0’. But the pitot tube can also be blocked during flight with ice or heavy rain, and as ice accumulates slowly over the pitot tube, the airspeed indicator will show a slow decrease in airspeed, maybe not even noticeable at first.

    Since the pitot tube is used just for the airspeed indicator, a blocked pitot tube will not affect the altimeter or VSI.

  • Blocked Static Port: A blocked static port isn’t too much of a problem if the aircraft is equipped with an alternate static source (many are). But without alternate air, a blocked static source will cause the airspeed indicator to act as a reverse altimeter, showing an increase in airspeed during a descent and a decrease in airspeed during a climb.

    With a blocked static port, the altimeter will freeze, showing the last altitude recorded before the blockage occurred, and the VSI will indicate ‘0’.

  • Pitot and Static Blockage: If both the pitot tube and static system are blocked, the airspeed indicator will act like an altimeter, showing an increase in airspeed when climbing and a decrease in airspeed while descending.

Gyroscopic System Failure:
There’s a reason the vacuum gage is checked during the engine run-up. It’s because two of the three commonly used gyroscopic instruments run on a vacuum-driven pump, and if these instruments fail, flying can be pretty dangerous.

The gyroscopic instruments typically include the turn coordinator, heading indicator and attitude indicator. The heading indicator and attitude indicator are vacuum-drive most of the time, so a vacuum failure or loss of suction will cause the attitude and heading indicators to ne unreliable.

Many commonly used turn coordinators are electrically driven (done for redundancy and as a backup to the vacuum system), and will fail along with an electrical failure.

A pitot-static or gyroscopic failure can be difficult to diagnose and confirm at first. The trick is to think about a failed instrument on a systemic level by determining which, if any, other instruments are also affected. If your airspeed seems off, check your other instruments. If they are also indicating erroneously, than you can bet there’s a pitot and static failure. If only the airspeed is incorrect you can rest assured the pitot tube alone is the culprit. By cross-checking often and making sure all your instruments agree with each other, you’ll be able to determine which are malfunctioning and take appropriate action. What’s the appropriate action? Covering up the inaccurate instruments and converting to a new insrtument scan that will keep you alive and allow you to land safely.

In any case, the quick and proper diagnosis of an instrument or system failure will turn an emergency into an inconvenience (although you should always declare an emergency when the situation warrants). A good pilot is always prepared, and preparation in this case comes with consistent practice, so be sure to brush up on your partial panel procedures often!

178 Seconds to Live: A Personal Account of Spatial Disorientation


As a flight instructor, I've always considered myself to be a safe pilot. Bad weather? Not flying. Under the weather? We'll cancel.

So when I found myself in a real-life VFR-into-IFR scenario, I actually wondered how it could happen to me. I was able to get my bearings that night, but not all pilots are so lucky.

I'd always heard about this "VFR into IMC" phenomenon and how bad it was, but I was always under the impression that I wouldn't need to worry about it. After all, if a pilot gets a proper preflight weather briefing, why in earth would he or she fly into bad weather?

The day I flew VFR into IMC was a definitely a lesson in weather and personal minimums and hazardous attitudes, but for me, it was also a blunt reality check. I had comfortably flown hundreds of hours in the Cessna 172, I had a lot of night time, cross country time, multi-engine time, IFR time, and apparently just enough instructor time for me to get slightly over-confident.

I was about to take two private pilot students up for a night flight when I realized I wasn't night current. I decided to start up the Cessna 172 and do my three full-stop take offs and landings before the students arrived. I checked AWOS first, and noted that the temperature/dew point spread was close - within three degrees- but a look at the clouds and sky told me it was a beautiful night.

During the first turn in the pattern I noted that the clouds were, indeed, lowering, and that maybe I should pay closer attention to the temperature and dew point. But it was the second take off that provided the reality check I apparently needed.

I turned crosswind, staying at about 800 feet AGL instead of the usual 1000 feet. I could see the ground, the buildings and lights, but was skimming the bottom of the clouds, and at one point went into IMC. Although brief, it was enough to disorient me. In what I suppose was an attempt to stay below the clouds, I had inadvertently commenced a turning descent during the crosswind turn.

I didn't notice until maybe a minute or two later, when I began a turn downwind and heard the sound of increased engine RPM. It sounded as though I'd increased power, but a quick check of the throttle indicated I hadn't. I knew something wasn't right. The engine sounded louder, faster. Thankfully, my brain was quick enough to tell my body that I was in a descent, headed quickly toward a "controlled flight into terrain" scenario that I'd read about in accident reports.

I was able to land safely that night but not every pilot is as lucky as I was.

An FAA publication from 1993 describes a study in which 20 student pilots flew simulators into instrument weather and all of them "went into graveyard spirals or roller-coaster like oscillations." The time until loss of control after entering IMC varied between 20-240 seconds, with the average being 178 seconds.

This harrowing video made by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) shows a common scenario in which a pilot might only have 178 seconds to live after flying VFR into IMC. It's a somber reminder for all of us flying around out there:


Source: 178 Seconds to Live: Spatial Disorientation can be a Killer, by Verdon Kleimenhagen, Ron Keones and James Szajkovics of FAA, and Ken Patz of MN/DOT Office of Aeroanutics, FAA Aviation News, January/February 1993.

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