Surviving Inadvertent IMC


AOPAs Air Safety Institute tells us half of all crashes attributed to attempted visual flight into instrument conditions involve instrument-rated pilots. You can survive, however, if you have a plan.

If, despite your best efforts, you blunder into instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) while attempting to remain VFR until you pick up your IFR clearance, use the following to get out of the situation:

– Climb along a route your pre-takeoff planning tells you is clear of clouds and, to the extent possible, away from traffic.

– Couple the autopilot, if equipped. Use the heading and attitude/climb function until you reach a safe altitude, then use the altitude-hold mode.

– Dont try to use navigation functions at this point-pilots often make GPS and other navigation input errors when suddenly and unexpectedly placed under a high workload. Keep it under control by keeping it simple.

– Communicate to ATC. Report who you are, where you are, what has happened and what you are doing.

Confess that you are in IMC without a clearance.

– Comply with ATC directions, unless you cannot safely do so. In that case, request an amended clearance-tell ATC what you have to do to safely resolve your transgression.

Will you get violated, and face possible enforcement action up to and including loss of pilot privileges? Perhaps. That certainly beats the alternative experienced by the three aboard the Baron and the nine aboard the BeechJet, however, and many, many others as well.

Climb, couple, communicate, confess and comply if you find yourself in IMC without an IFR clearance. Its not hard; its certainly not as hard as what you might hit.


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