What’s So Special About Special VFR?
If I’m not on an instrument flight plan, I don’t like getting close to controlled airspace where I will be getting vectored (controlled) by ATC in less than favorable conditions. ATC cannot see the clouds, and under VFR you as PIC must remain clear of the clouds.
I was flying in from the Bahamas to KFXE and passed through KFLL’s air space. I was at the cloud layer level when KFLL approach directed me into the clouds. I replied to the instructions to turn with, “unable I’m VFR and IMC to my right.” Approach was also directing departures. I heard the clearance for a large Delta aircraft directed my way. The controller gave me the same instruction, this time with kind of a panic tone. I responded NXxxx turning to heading XXX and announced I was IMC.
I was not instrument rated at the time, though I had passed my instrument written and did have enough hours for a check ride. I was not instrument rated, more important, I was not on an instrument flight plan and had no plans for going IIMC. But there I was.
I could have chosen to take on the large commercial jet heading toward me. A large jet that could pop out of a cloud at any moment, or take my chances with the soft puffy cloud to my right. I picked cloud.
There has been lots of discussion about IIMC lately, and I’ve had this happen more than once.
I was lucky. Unlike most pilots, I had spatial disorientation training at the FAA training facility in Oklahoma. Also, because I had just flown about 750 miles over the islands, mainly using my instruments to navigate, my instruments were set for instrument flight.
What if I had just taken off and my instruments weren’t set? When I’m going into controlled airspace, I always prepare my instruments and myself as if I’m going IMC, even if I’m not on an IFR flight plan.
In the late 60s I flew our FBOs Instrument training Cardinal to Louisville to pick up some freight. I had a commercial license but no Instrument rating. I asked for and received a special VFR from an intersection West of SDF and got sequenced toward the old runway 01. The haze in that area was very common back then and it was difficult to judge visibility but you could see the ground. I got vectored to the ILS and noticed that the ground had vanished. The approach controller said he didn’t have a strip on me and asked If I had filed a flight plan. I replied in the negative. He then asked if I had an Instrument Rating. Again Negative. He replied “continue your approach”. I saw the runway lights at about 300 feet and landed. A not so genial Fed met me on the ramp and gave me hell but I told him the wx was OK til I started down on final and I thought the safest thing was to fly the ILS and land. At the time I had passed the Inst Written exam and had maybe 8 or 10 hours under the hood. It was pretty dumb but I learned from it.
Years ago, I used a contact approach clearance to avoid flying through a thunderstorm at the outer marker on an ILS when on downwind I could see my home airport was clear VMC. When cleared I just flew a 1-mile base to final to miss the previously mentioned weather. Things you can do in a Caravan! When I started flying jets those companies did not have the ops spec allowing contact approaches, I am sure for obvious reasons. As Clint Eastwood said in one of his movie lines, “got to know your limitations.”
Poll: Are Cockpit Cameras a Good Safety Device?
- They must be used wisely and not create a distraction. The images should be analysed in a professional manner, and the data should be protected for privacy as are CVR and DFDR data. There should be no confusion with “GoPro” type of data.
- A good training/review device, nothing about safety.
- The PIC is ultimately responsible for the flight. Who gets to use the video to cast judgement? The FAA/NTSB? Insurance adjusters? Internet shamers/grandstanding political hacks?
- Possibly, but not with a solo student pilot. I have had student pilots ask to use a cockpit video camera for their first solo flight and my response is always ‘Absolutely not!’. My fear is the potential distraction and I end the conversation with ‘How would the accident report read?’ There is at least one classic accident where a cell phone provided a distraction for a solo student pilot and contributed greatly to a fatal crash. So, not on my watch!
- Absolutely not! This would be an irresistible temptation to media outlets in every accident to try to air the flight deck video of the pilots’ last moments. The more bleedy, the more leady.
- It would not have added any probative value in the Bryant investigation. Without it, we know what happened and have a pretty good idea why it happened. Suits in offices have always wanted a surveillance culture in the cockpit and they’ll eventually get it. However, the negative consequences of being under constant surveillance are real. Humans don’t perform as well when their every action is subject to scrutiny by anyone with access to the footage.
- Outward-looking camera plus data recorder would work wonders.
- Unnecessary invasion of privacy.
- Data recorder and cockpit camera for commercial ops.
- Irrelevant to safety. (My GoPro is fixed, not accessible in flight.)
- What would they accomplish? Nothing.
- They can actually make it more DANGEROUS if crews perform for the camera instead of fly the plane as needed.
- Possibly, but their content must be protected and not taken out of context…which normally happens.
- As an accident investigator, they are great.
- No. How would a camera be a “safety” device? GPWS and EGPWS and TCAS are safety devices. A camera in the cockpit has nothing whatsoever to do with safety.
- I’d say a better training tool (for instructor/student) than safety device.
- Yes, for certain industry segments.
- CAMERAS do not make anything “safer.”
- Put some perspective to the question. But they aren’t a safety device at all. They usually would only tell the investigators the dead pilot did something wrong.
- Good investigative device.
- Not a fan.
- It depends on who has access to the video.
- Are we talking for Part 91 ops or just for commercial ops? For Part 91 … NO!
- Yes, with limits on prosecution.
- Excellent for training. Intrusive otherwise.
- Privacy issues need to be addressed. So my vote is no.
- Since we’re now required to post every flight on Facebook, they should be mandatory. Duh!
- Why aren’t they in air carrier cockpits and on exterior areas?
- Possibly, if combined with a Flight Data Recorder.
- It encourages risky behavior like landing in short backcountry strips a pilot is not competent to fly into.
- Not unless they can read checklists, recover from upsets, provide oxygen, put out fires, keep track of hazardous weather, or wake a pilot who has dozed off.
- As a requirement for GA aircraft to be so equipped – ABSOLUTELY NOT!!
- I’ll put up with a camera when our Congress gets them in their offices too.
- Get pilots out of cockpit is the safest one.
- Another spying device… No thanks!!