Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, February 11, 2014

20 Tips For VFR Flying


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


18 Think at least three times about flying VFR at night, especially when there's no moon. A few years back, the FAA considered requiring additional simulator hours for a night-flying VFR endorsement. The idea didn't fly, but there's no question night flying is more demanding than day VFR. Horizons often vanish at night, clouds become invisible and ground detail usually fades to black. Night can simulate a black hole, no place for a VFR pilot.

19 Every pilot without an instrument rating fears the possibility of winding up on top of an overcast with little fuel, experience or options. It can happen to anyone, especially aviators who think they're doing everything right and accidentally allow the clouds to thicken and turn solid below them almost unnoticed. There's a special risk over any body of water that can generate instant ground fog. The tendency is for pilots to watch the sky rather than the ground and barely notice when clouds creep in insidiously and blot out all VFR reference points. For that reason, keep an eye on the lower quadrant to assure you're not being seduced into a situation you'll have trouble getting out of. Flight watch can give you a warning of the problem by providing temperature and dew point. If those two numbers are approaching each other, it may be time to look for someplace else to go.
Water can be your best friend in some circumstances over landlocked trips.
20 Finally, it's probably the most common advice offered to new pilots, but don't wait too long to ask for help. Whether you're trapped above clouds, "temporarily disoriented" or have some other problem, someone on the ground may be able to help. Many pilots assume any admission of shortcomings in their flight planning or decision-making will automatically result in a violation. Most often not. Many FAA employees are pilots themselves who have been there.

If you do get into trouble, remember the four Cs of an emergency other than a loss of power: climb, communicate, confess and comply. Climb for better radio reception. Communicate with someone on the ground who can help. Confess the details of your situation and comply with any directions. Remember that while this is your first emergency, the person on the other end of the radio may have dealt with the same problem a dozen of more times. He very likely has access to information, equipment and assets that you don't.



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