March 2011 Issue

Ducking Under

Pressures leading us to bust minimums can include passenger expectations, cockpit confusion and low fuel but rarely produce a good outcome.

A crash occurring during an instrument approach almost always happens because the airplane descends below the published minimum altitude. It’s easy for any pilot to say, "I’d never do that," and dismiss this brand of controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) as a non-hazard...at least for ourselves. True, evidence suggests that some "ducking under" decision height, decision altitude or the minimum descent altitude is intentional—the pilot knowingly flies "just a little bit lower" to try to find the runway in the murk. But ducking under is not always intentional—a conscientious pilot may be susceptible to ducking under in some circumstances. The question is, how can we avoid the traps?

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