June 2015 Issue

Real-World Alternates

You may not have to file for one, but having a Plan B—and enough gas to implement it—requires some planning.

One of the concerns many pilots express about doing their flight planning on a tablet computer is that they don’t spend time with a chart and a plotter looking over a route. They end up starting a flight with less situational awareness about airports where they can bail out if something goes wrong en route. That, combined with what can become a rote fixation on selecting an IFR alternate based only on the regs regarding weather at the destination, is an invitation to poor decision-making when a little smoke in the cockpit means shutting off the electrical system a third of the way into the flight, or the engine starts running rough on initial climb from an airport that’s below approach minimums. One way out of these dilemmas is to keep in mind the FARs are, by law, nothing more than minimum standards—and only looking at an alternate airport for the destination on an IFR flight of 500 miles might not be doing ourselves any favors. We always need an ace in the hole, and it doesn’t have to be the one we tell the FAA about on the flight plan.

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