Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, January 1, 2008

VMC Vs. VFR


What’s technically legal isn’t necessarily safe


vmc cs vfrIn basic flight training, student pilots memorize the cloud clearance and visibility criteria for operation under visual flight rules and instrument flight rules (VFR and IFR). Flight schools and instructors drill into students the cloud clearance and visibility requirements for VFR operations in various categories of airspace, all the while neglecting to mention that none of this has much to do with the ability to keep an airplane upright during periods of restricted visibility and/or lack of terrain definition." />

If you climb into an airplane and launch, telling yourself you can always turn around, it’s even harder to fold your cards and perform a 180-degree turn, but that critical maneuver must always remain as an option.

Lastly, maintain instrument proficiency. I offer this as a last resort because, as noted, the accident database suggests that even highly experienced, instrument-rated pilots often do a terrible job of making the transition from VMC to instrument flight. Climbing into IMC and transitioning to instrument flight from the visual should be a planned act, not a get-out-of-jail-free card, to be played only if things really turn sour on you.

Most of all, every pilot should understand that even basic VFR weather can create conditions under which it’s impossible to operate an aircraft by visual references. As you plan your flights, consider not only the weather conditions you’re likely to encounter, but also the terrain and any obstacles you’re likely to encounter en route, and whether or not you can maintain visual flight under those conditions.



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