VFR/IFR And Dragons


enjoyed your article “VFR on an IFR Clearance” in the November 2021 issue. I owned and operated a King Air E90 for about 15 years and frequently flew into Watsonville Municipal (KWVI) near Monterey, California. Unless it was a short hop, I almost always flew on a full IFR flight plan and was almost always above 18,000. Watsonville frequently had its marine layer for most of the morning starting at about 500 feet and rarely over a thousand feet thick, but definitely IFR. Filing a plan and getting a clearance and release out of Watsonville given the busy Bay Area airspace was frequently problematic to the point where I would bring a handheld radio and sit on the stairwell talking to NorCal through the remote outlet.

Then one day I heard a local guy in some twin call up asking for a quick IFR release to NALLS intersection, the final approach fix for the Localizer Runway 02 approach. He got it immediately and took off. Never heard from him again since I was still on ground remote, but presumably he canceled with NorCal at or near NALLS and headed VFR on his way.

Since my trips are usually in the summertime, other than marine-layer California was usually CAVU all the way to Nevada and beyond, where I was heading, and I usually don’t hit 18,000 until the Central Valley or near Merced. It was a nice way to get out of Watsonville IFR quickly, and that short clearance request did not tilt the NorCal traffic computers. I picked up my real IFR flight plan near Merced. I think it is a shame pilots are left to figure this out for themselves, and it’s almost never offered or suggested by ATC. Thanks again.

Steve Wagner -Stillwater, Minn.

You call, we haul!


I enjoyed Jim Wolper’s article “Improving Your Glide” in November’s issue. Thorough review as befits a math professor and thought-provoking. But I wonder if I could get his—or the editor’s—comments on a simpler way to attain best glide. Using maximum nose-up trim gets one very close to best glide in many (most?) General Aviation planes and is stone-cold simple. Dr. Ian Fries publicized this many years ago. Works for my plane, and it is my plan to use if needed. Thoughts?

Andrew Doorey – Via email

We’ve heard of this technique before, and one instructor or another has demonstrated it to us. Depending on the airplane and how it’s loaded, it can work. Two thoughts: First, if you’re doing it right—trimming away any pitch-control pressures after establishing best glide—you’ll wind up with the appropriate trim setting anyway. Using the pitch control first always is preferred when making large-scale configuration changes, if for no other reason than it’s quicker.

Second, by all means, try it in the aircraft and loading situations you most often fly. If it works, there’s another arrow in your quiver. We’ll bet applying full nose-up trim to a Cessna 150/152 works differently when in a loaded A36 Bonanza, however.


I found Jeb Burnside’s article “Here Be Dragons” in the December 2021 issue to be interesting and very well-written. As I read it I tried, but was unable, to calculate what percentage of fatal general aviation accidents are due to pilot error. Other than the obvious causes, I would include insufficient maintenance that was the fault of the pilot/owner.

Since Jeb has studied the subject, is he able to make a guess at what he believes that number is?

David Shepherd – Via email

Great question, with many answers. A broad one is that every accident other than an undetectable mechanical failure is pilot-related, even if there are other factors, like weather. It’s always the Pilot in Command’s decision to fly in those conditions, which include the airplane’s maintenance status.

Another answer is that we’re not aware of an accident-cause category devoted to an owner’s maintenance management practices, though such numbers could be developed with a close reading of NTSB accident narratives.

A third answer comes from the AOPA Air Safety Institute’s Nall Reports, the most recent of which breaks down non-commercial fixed-wing numbers into three main categories: Pilot-related, Mechanical and Other/Unknown. For 2019, AOPA/ASI determined that 62.1 percent of all such accidents are pilot-related, with mechanicals coming in at 19.6 percent.

The AOPA/ASI defines a “pilot-related” accident as one “arising from improper action or inaction of the pilot.” A conversation with AOPA/ASI confirms that they would consider an owner/pilot’s failure to properly maintain the accident aircraft as a “pilot-related” mishap.


As an “old pilot” with approximately 40 years of experience (90 percent in various Mooneys), I remember the difficulty of finding good “recurrent training” at the local airports. Most of the instructors were very young folks building time to use as a springboard to a future carrier in something burning Jet A. Their prime motivation seemed to be not scratching metal, as that might be a disqualifier to their career path.

I found the MAPA (Mooney guys) magazine some 20 years ago, and they have a Pilot Proficiency Program (PPP) where the instructors are typically “old” but have instructed for years and the first thing they would ask is, “What can you do well?” And you didn’t do any of that; the majority of the time spent was in areas that really needed work. This made for anxiety, but the end result was a dramatic improvement in overall skill level, particularly the IMC area. I have attended now 17 times, and each time it is like the check ride for an “instrument commercial!”

One recent instructor was a retired airline senior check pilot for their international captains and he had the obsession that after my 35 years as a lowly SEL private pilot, I needed to be performing to +/- 2.5 degrees heading and 100 feet of altitude, while flying Foggles and multiple approaches to multiple airports. I learned a great deal that day…he explained that the exercise was to determine how much stress I could take before skills decayed. My dislike for that day turned to satisfaction that I did have skills beyond my expectations and that if things did go “very bad,” I had the training and practice to achieve a successful result. You can’t fly that way with the wife in the plane!

So that brings me to ask, have you ever had an article comparing the various training by type clubs in the various makes? Mooney, Beech, Cessna, Piper…each has some pilot group that offers type-specific training to stretch one’s skill level.

I’ve already signed up for February 2022 in Lakeland and the Mooney, but I have spoken to several other Mooney pilots that seem to have little to no interest in such training, and that is another article waiting to be written!

Bob Cochell – Via web site

We’ve been through the American Bonanza Society’s Bonanza Pilot Proficiency Program (ABS BPPP) training and highly recommend it. In our experience, training offered by the various type clubs is uniformly good and highly recommended.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here