Probable Cause #61: Illegal IFR Flight
This article originally appeared in IFR Refresher, Sept. 2007.Another pilot once told me he had been caught on top of cloud layers several times during his flying career but always escaped safely by simply calling ATC for an IFR clearance to get below the cloud decks and fly on VFR to his destinations. What was so unusual was that this pilot had never earned an instrument rating. What bothered me most was this pilot's obvious disregard for the regulations, not once but several times. In fact, he made this all sound like "I'm going to get there no matter what" was a normal procedure for him. He thought ATC would prefer to know he was there to begin with. He assumed that what he did was better than just shutting off his transponder and descending through the clouds on his own. Apparently, it never occurred to him that these trips were all illegal. Perhaps that same attitude was present when a pilot crashed a Mooney near the Van Nuys, Calif., airport in June 2005. He also did not have an instrument rating and crashed while executing the ILS approach to Runway 16 through the clouds at Van Nuys one night after the control tower had closed. The pilot was the sole occupant of the aircraft. He was killed when the aircraft impacted the south slope of a shallow ravine approximately five miles north of the VNY airport.