October 2015 Issue

Breaking Out

The real challenge isn’t when you sight the runway, but transitioning from instruments to visual.

I clearly remember my first experience breaking out on final after an instrument approach. It was late Thanksgiving, on the second leg of a seven-hour cross-country. At the time, I was an IFR noob with very little experience flying “in the system,” much less in actual IMC. I had been flying above a cloud layer, but with an hour remaining in my flight and the sun setting, the deck had finally sealed off my view of the ground. Fortunately, temperatures were warm, the layer was only a few thousand feet thick and the bases were reported at 1800 feet agl. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to experience breaking out without being anywhere near IFR minimums.

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