Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, February 11, 2014

20 Tips For VFR Flying

These ideas may not save your life, or maybe they will

12 Conversely, remember that water can be your best friend in some circumstances over landlocked trips. A friend was ferrying a new Mooney to Europe a few years back and suffered a total engine failure over the Swiss Alps. The terrain in every direction was near vertical, so he picked out the biggest flat spot he could find, an alpine lake, and ditched the airplane rather than attempt a dead-stick landing against the side of a mountain. The airplane got very wet, but he swam away uninjured.

13 Temper your judgment about flying in high-mountain terrain at all, if you can avoid it. Yes, it's beautiful, especially with popcorn cumulus floating by, but there may be little margin for error if you accidently enter a cloud. A while back, two good friends, both excellent IFR-rated pilots, flew a new Caravan straight into the side of a hill near Palm Springs, apparently another CFIT (controlled flight into terrain) accident. A 180-degree turn won't necessarily solve your problem—it may make it worse if clouds have closed in behind you—but it's a far safer bet than continuing without a clearance or any idea where the tall rocks live.
You may never know what circumstances will dictate the need for more fuel....
14 If you fly with a panel-mount GPS, as nearly everyone does these days, consider buying a portable backup. I carry two on most ferry flights. That way, I have a tie-breaker in case they disagree. Panel mounts typically have their own dedicated battery specifically designed to avoid losing position information following an electrical power failure, but depending upon your situation, that may not be enough. You can find some excellent used Garmin portables for less than $300, a small investment for the extra security.

15 Avoid flying at any limit speed. Vne is the obvious worst one, but there are a dozen others. Vle, max landing gear extension speed, is often specified to save the gear doors. Violate it consistently, and those doors may eventually fail. It's the same with flap extension speed, Vfe. If you use gear and flaps to decelerate, do so only well within the specified limit speeds.

16 Even if you're not IFR rated, consider carrying a set of low-altitude en route charts for the trips you make most often. A low-altitude chart can provide you with IFR MEAs, an instant measure of safe altitude along established routes. You'll also have an easy reference to leg distances between VORs and airports (sometimes). IFR charts also provide sector frequencies in case you need help and there's no one awake on 121.5 mHz.

17 Everyone knows you should scan the airspace around you for other traffic, but the most neglected quadrant of see-and-be-seen is directly behind you. Studies of mid-air collisions have shown that the most likely risk is from the rear. That's especially true during descents when a following aircraft overruns preceding traffic. If you're descending, try throwing in some slight turns occasionally and check six for what might be gaining on you.


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