Plane & Pilot
Saturday, May 1, 2004

Worst-Case Weather Scenarios

If you find yourself in hazardous situations, nothing helps you more than having a plan

worst weather scenariosThere is absolutely no excuse for beginning or continuing a flight into known hazardous weather—“hazardous” being defined as any weather condition that exceeds the limitations of your pilot ratings and currency and/or those of the airplane as it’s certified, equipped, maintained and inspected. Our responsibility as pilots in command is painstakingly clear when it comes to weather planning and flight in adverse conditions.
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Worst-Case Weather ScenariosHow To Survive Unintended Entry Into Instrument Conditions
This is the number-one killer of lightplane pilots—and about half of the cases show that the pilot is instrument-rated! If you find yourself in or about to enter instrument conditions, do the following:
• Do not re-trim the airplane—assuming that it was in trim before you entered IMC, it will still be trimmed for your present desired flight condition.
• Take your hands off the controls. Use rudders for heading control and only small jabs of the yoke to correct pitch and bank excursions. Use an autopilot if you have one.
• Gradually turn 180 degrees to return to clearer skies.
• If you’re still in IMC, contact air traffic control for help. Use 121.5 if you don’t know another frequency.
• Change one variable (speed and heading altitude) at a time.
• Turn with no more than a 10-degree bank.
• With cruise trim, about 400 rpm (fixed-pitch props) or a four-inch manifold pressure equals 500 fpm of descent—just what you need for an ILS approach.
• Lowering the retractable landing gear equals about 500 fpm of descent.

Worst-Case Weather ScenariosHow To Mentally Survive
In The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook (by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht, Quirk Publications, 1999), survival instructor “Mountain” Mel Deweese tells us how to “continue to exist, no matter how dire the circumstances.” He wisely suggests:
• Be prepared—mentally, physically and equipment-wise.
• Stay calm and don’t panic.
• Have a survival plan.
Surviving worst-case weather means having the skills and discipline to avoid hazardous weather in the first place, and the ability and equipment to calmly carry out your pre-planned escape technique in the event that your judgment and skill haven’t kept you out of danger.


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