November 2008 Issue

Departing Non-Towered Airports

When thereís no charted departure procedure and the weatherís down the tubes, use these tips to do it on your own.

When departing IFR from a tower-controlled airport, planning your initial route is easy. You may have a challenging departure procedure, but you depart as cleared or as directed, immediately under positive control. It sounds complicated, but itís actually easier than the alternative. The alternative, since you asked, is an IFR departure from a non-towered airport. In this case, youíre entirely responsible for terrain clearance until you make it into controlled airspace and you must plan an obstacle clearance departure route on your own. Your options (and responsibilities) are different depending on whether itís VMC, marginal VFR or IMC. What do you need to consider? How do you choose? If you want to know what youíre expected to do under a given set of circumstances, the first place to look is the regs. FAR 91.175 specifies what pilots are required to do for takeoff and landing under IFR. Although 91.175 gives us a lot of good information about landing minima and decision heights, and what needs to be visible to proceed from the missed approach point to landing, it is basically mute on the subject of instrument departures.

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