Houston Controller Talks VFR Pilot Through IMC


ATC audioof a Houston controller talking a VFR pilot through an emergency IFR approach into Houston Executive Airport included instruction on setting up a GPS, vectors, and managing the Cessna 172’s engine as it descended from 8500 feet. Pilot Mark Nelson had called ATC for help when he was trapped above clouds flying his Cessna 172 over Texas on Nov. 16.According to areportfrom KHOU 11 News, controller Hugh McFarland — an instrument-rated pilot — was tapped to aid Nelson.He assessed the pilot’s flight condition and pointed him towards Houston Executive on the edge of the Class B airspace.The airport was reporting 800 feet overcast.Nelson, who was solo, said he had a Garmin GNS 430 and a handheld GPS on board, but no autopilot. He said he had some IFR training.

During the 41-minute audio, McFarland instructed Nelson to fly wings level and use standard rate turns when he needed to change his heading. He confirmed that the cockpit CDI was coupled to the 430 and told Nelson to keep it in GPS mode. Nelson followed instructions to descend at 90 knots, 500 feet per minute, as he followed vectors heading south, then east and north to line up with Runway 36. During the descent, McFarland reminded the pilot to enrichen the mixture and use carburetor heat. “You’re doing great,” he said. “You’re tracking southbound and your airspeed seems to be under control.” During the final descent and lined up with the 6,600-foot runway, Nelson had trouble finding the airport, but McFarland continued talking after he lost radar contact with the Cessna. He pointed out that Interstate 10 runs south of the field and continued talking until Nelson had the runway in sight. “I found the airport, I think I’m gonna make it, thank you,” he said.