December 2008 Issue

Six Single-Pilot IFR Tips

Single-pilot IFR isn’t the huge challenge it once was. Use these tips, along with your automation, to make it a non-event.

There was a time not so long ago that a single pilot flying hard IFR was considered an accident waiting to happen. There was simply too much going on, conventional wisdom held, for one pilot to handle all alone. Instrument pilots contemplating a flight in actual weather actively sought out others—perhaps an instructor—who could help with the cockpit chores and make sure the dirty side stayed down. Except for the freshest instrument pilots, that’s all changed. And good riddance. I’ve long been convinced the second most dangerous thing in aviation is two pilots trying to fly the same airplane at the same time (the first is a private pilot with a #2 Phillips screwdriver, but that’s a different article). But the idea of single-pilot IFR, or SPIFR, being something to avoid seems to have hung on in some quarters. Sure; there’s a time and a place to take along some backup, depending on how comfortable a pilot is with the weather, the airplane and the airspace. But I’d argue against making the flight in the first place if the only way you’d consider it is with another pilot. Be that as it may, advances in automating the cockpit have paved the way for much more SPIFR than only a decade ago. That’s a good thing, in my opinion, but also means our lone pilot needs to prepare for the flight a bit more than might otherwise be the case.

To continue reading this entire article you must be a paid subscriber.

Subscribe to Aviation Safety

The monthly journal of risk management and accident prevention, is packed with useful, timely information on basic and advanced technique, accident analysis and, most important, practical articles on how you can develop the judgment that will keep you in the air and out of the NTSB's files.

Already subscribe but haven't registered for all the benefits of the website? Click here.

Subscriber Log In

Forgot your password? Click Here.