June 2012 Issue
Beyond The MEA
Getting as low as possible while remaining IFR can mean a non-stop flight or getting in on a visual. Asking ATC often is the key.
On most of my cross-country flights, I usually climb to at least eight or 10,000 feet, sometimes higher. The reasons are many: The ride is smoother, fuel consumption is lower, true airspeed is higher, theres less traffic, fewer frequency changes, a tailwinds effects are more pronounced and theres more time to find a runway if something happens. But Im not the least bit averse to flying long flights within a couple thousand feet of terrain if conditions warrant. Heres the hard part: Getting and staying low when operating on an IFR clearance often is incompatible with what ATC wants. Many instrument-rated pilots are convinced they have little choice in the matter, but we do have some options for getting and staying low. Using one depends on where you are and where youre going. You dont always have to remain at or above the MEA.
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