August 2007 Issue

Flight Landing Alternates Made Easy

When the weather’s bad, choosing an alternate airport can be a tricky balance of time, distance, fuel and minimums. It doesn’t have to be so hard.

Flight under instrument flight rules (IFR) is largely procedural. There’s little room or tolerance for zany spontaneity so, if you love surprises, look elsewhere. But although we fly by the book, when the plot thickens, we do in fact have options (although they’re more like regulatory provisions) for choosing a different ending. Usually, the thickening agent affecting our best-laid plans is weather-related. Before we can exercise that freedom of choice, however, IFR pilots must fulfill certain obligations. Some of these rules are similar to those for VFR flight, such as how much fuel we should have on board. Some, however, go literally a step beyond, such as the requirement for specifying an alternate destination (as well as hopefully having some rough plan for getting there). The idea of even thinking of an alternate airport may be foreign for some newly anointed VFR pilots, but in the IFR world, it’s a well-known commodity.

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