Your IFR Moments

  • E-Mail this Article
  • View Printable Article
  • Text size:

    • A
    • A
    • A
This article originally appeared in IFR magazine, May 2005.

Flying the System

IFR magazine asked its readers to contribute defining moments of IFR flying. Here are a few where the moment was made by the company as much as the flight.

Tanks for the Help

Broken Undercast

I rotated among all three CFIIs at a small flight school near Philadelphia, Pa. One of them, whom I'll call "Tank," was an arrogant pup bound for the airlines. On my third or fourth time up in actual IMC, our prickly relationship went sour in a series of arguments, including the correct turn direction into a hold entry. We were on an outbound, parallel vector to the ILS 6 when Tank asked if he could shoot the approach for his currency. I was mightily steamed at the idea of paying to watch him fly. I reckoned the cost at roughly $20 and decided to find a way to get $20 of instruction or entertainment value out of it. Tank took over on the turn to the intercept heading. I reached into my bag for instrument covers and set Tank up for no-gyro. He scowled and I growled, "OK, Tank?" "Uh ... OK," he said. The localizer needle came alive and Tank began a standard-rate left turn to 060. He had forgotten about the wind, which was 180 at 15 knots. The needle went back to the peg and stayed there, but Tank kept on turning left. As we passed 360, I uncovered the heading indicator and shouted, "Tank, you need this -- now!" He made no response and we kept turning. Passing 330, Allentown Approach called, "Cessna 12345, continue that left turn to heading 180, advise when ready to copy clearance back to Philadelphia." We were being evicted! Tank was still turning. I keyed the mike, acknowledged the clearance, and finally got Tank to relinquish control. As I took the handoff to Philadelphia Approach, Tank realized what had happened. I ignored him and flew home, finishing with a perfectly executed NDB approach to breakout at 50 feet over MDA and a greaser landing. Tank stormed out of the airplane without a word. I paid the bill and left without seeing him. The next day, another instructor asked, "What did you do to Tank?" I told him the story and he never did quite stop laughing during that lesson. Although I never flew with him again, Tank was gracious enough to hand me a signoff for the checkride a few days later. Ray Tackett, Philadelphia, Pa.

No Low Pass Today

Not long after I had my IFR ticket 15 years ago, my wife and I flew our 1976 Piper Arrow from Bowling Green, Ky., to San Antonio, Texas, to a medical convention. For a long time I had wanted to take my wife to San Antonio for a visit. I had been there in the 1960s when I was single to the Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, training to be a Flight Surgeon. My wife didn't have much trust in my IFR skills but it was a beautiful, December, VFR day when we left. It was a six-hour trip with a stop in Monroe, La., for lunch and fuel. As we were vectored for a visual at our destination, we were treated to a memorable sight: the space shuttle atop the 747 mother ship parked regally at Kelly AFB. For our return trip, the weather turned overcast with bases at 700 and tops at 6000. No report of icing or t-storms. My wife became nervous and worried again, questioning my abilities to handle the situation. I told her it was a piece of cake but she didn't buy it. Reluctantly, she agreed to take a chance with me. I filed for 7000 feet and three hours en route to Monroe. We climbed through the soup. Passing 6500 feet, we entered into bright sunlight. My wife enjoyed the view and appeared to relax. As we started our descent to Monroe 2.5 hrs later, we were back in the soup. My passenger tensed up again, wondering if I knew where I was going. Ceiling was reported at 500 feet. I intercepted the localizer well outside the OM and was cleared to land. By now my bladder, which usually holds over four hours, was feeling full due to the effect of some beers I had at a banquet 15 hours earlier. It was hurting while I was going through my landing checklist, still in the soup. I decided to lower my landing gear before the FAF and now my problems began: My left main was not showing green. I told the tower about my predicament and he suggested that I make a low pass for someone to look at the gear. My bladder in pain, I followed emergency procedures, swapped left and right bulbs hoping it was a burned bulb, and kept recycling the gear handle. Suddenly I got three greens. I was now on final, three miles out and still in the soup. Despite the distractions, I managed to keep my needles crossed. I told the controller I was going to land. He said, "Are you sure you don't want to make a low pass?" With the ceiling reported at just above minimums and my bladder hurting, I told him I was going to land. My wife remained speechless. We broke out in front of the runway and my wife started to applaud. The landing was uneventful except for the fire trucks chasing us down the runway with flashing lights. We parked, gave a report, and thanked the firemen, then I ran as fast as I could to the men's room. The only problem the mechanic found was low hydraulic fluid. At lunch my wife said to me, "I knew you could do it." M. Robert Perez, Bowling Green, Ky.

The Boss on Board

Solid IMC

"Ominous" best described the view at 9000 feet through the windscreen of my A36 Bonanza. I was approaching Atlanta from the southwest one unsettled July afternoon. Looming in the distance ahead and to the left was a wall of weather ascending into the flight levels. An advance of layered clouds, scattered rain and chop was already reaching over the Class B area. Riding shotgun was my boss, the company president. Our business-related day trip was his first ride in a small plane and we were on track to get down safely ahead of the approaching storm. Forty miles out, Approach issued an initial descent to 5000, stepping us down further into the gloom as we were vectored around the western side of the airspace on our way to Peachtree-Dekalb (KPDK) airport. Arcing north for sequencing, we joined the extended centerline for ILS 20L at Peachtree, poking in and out of bumpy clouds and squalls with no ground in sight. I sensed the anxiety of my uninitiated passenger as the gear dropped and we began our descent; he removed any doubt by turning to me and growling, "Do you have any idea where the heck we are?" (Propriety suggested certain word substitutions in the preceding quotation). We were in the clag, past the outer marker, and coasting right down the pipe. Calmly, I suggested he turn his gaze forward and watch, which he did in wide-eyed, uncertain anticipation. Moments later, precisely where they were supposed to be, the approach lights and threshold slowly resolved out of the mist. It was an easy greaser onto the slick, wet runway. As we rolled out, the visibly relieved CEO turned and stared at me for a moment and said, "OK, I'm impressed." This uncaptured Kodak moment was later interpreted to be only the third "at-a-boy" ever known to have been given by this man to a direct subordinate in 13 years. I beamed. David Howe, Atlanta, Ga.
More AVweb articles about flying in the IFR system are available here. And for monthly articles about IFR flying, subscribe to AVweb's sister publication, IFR magazine.