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VFR into IMC with an IR

Reading all this as a US-trained pilot is kind of amazing. Pop-up clearances are routine in the US. You set off VFR, meaning you can choose your own route and altitude, and if it turns out that isn’t going to work, get a pop-up clearance. Of course you don’t wait to do it until you’re in the clag, but it’s no big deal. I’ve never been refused one, nor ever heard of it happening to anyone else.

The idea that if you need a pop-up clearance then you might as well call the undertaker while you’re at it, is just extremely funny.

LFMD, France

dutch_flyer wrote:

call ATC, explain the situation, and ask for a clearance if continuing IFR to the destination is a reasonable option;

By the time you sorted that out (if you even can) your in another FIR in Belgian airspace. Transitioning to IFR on an VFR departure (Z flight Plan) with FIS involved takes minutes to set up the coordination…so this is not even out of the blue like in your case..or grey:-). Me think, mental switch to on instruments first, on the same trajectory before anything else. By the time you mentally switched you would be in the blue without even knowing it….

EBST

EuroFlyer wrote:

But please: flying into bad wheather is not some higher force striking upon you or some bad fate. It is insufficient preparation.

As I, too, had once a near VFR-into-IMC experience to me that statement sounds quite arrogant.

Yes the weather was not good when I was flying then, but not “marginal” either, we were flying easily 1000 ft AGL and I thought I even had a plan B. When I was below some frontal weather situation, forecast as light weather, what came totally unexpected for me was that the cloud base suddenly fell down. And I don’t mean some lowering cloud base in flight direction, it was in all directions, turning back was no option (I tried). I was aware of a close-by grass airfield, maybe 5km away. I headed there and was literally forced to ground, the cloud base upon landing was maybe 100 ft AGL, a bit of fog on the ground. After maybe 30 minutes all was over and we continued our flight.

What seemed to have happened is that we flew over some hills right in the very moment that weather arrived there, too, and the dynamics of that hillside changed conditions for convection. It was evolving so fast that I really have to say that there may happen things which you cannot fully prepare (other than: not flying in any weather worse than GAFOR “O”). And I had absolutely no instrumentation for flying any IMC onboard.

Last Edited by UdoR at 14 Jan 15:35
Germany

Ibra wrote:

don’t think that would help ATC help you: to them without FPL you are “VFR in Golf”, now you are asking them to clear you IFR to destination fully in airspace in some new IFR route generated in IFPS (with all slot management, separation, squawks, coordinations)? or to clear you IFR to destination outside controlled airspace along your planned route without separation?

No, I expect them to get me to my destination within controlled airspace (including class E, which is controlled for IFR) to my destination. Ask any Scandinavian controller or any US controller and that is what they will do. Probably in France, too, but haven’t done it there.

All this “flight plan required, slot management, coordination” is only so much unnecessary BS for the few light aircraft that need it on occasion. If you flew through the same airspace VFR they would clear you in, hand you over to the next sector if you move into adjacent airspace, etc, without any ado. Why should this be different?

Biggin Hill

All this “flight plan required, slot management, coordination” is only so much unnecessary BS for the few light aircraft that need it on occasion. If you flew through the same airspace VFR they would clear you in, hand you over to the next sector if you move into adjacent airspace, etc, without any ado. Why should this be different?

It depends but yes asking pop-up IFR in Echo is non-event, the airspace is empty and you are entitled to IFR there, anyway you can be unknown VFR, every ATC on earth have all the incentives to “get you in the system”, not sure why DFS/LBA have that obsession with Echo & MRVA to write pages on it in AIP?

Asking ATC to pop-up IFR in Golf is like asking AFIS to give you takeoff/land clearance or better asking for “startup the engine while airborne”? however, coordination is real in some places, maybe in Paris & London & Amesterdam? slots: there is max 2 light aircraft per hour with FIS staffing issues in Paris, you have that incentive to just depart and fly in Golf…

It got worse, ATC staffing for GA flights was problematic last year (ask anyone who flew IFR not someone theorising about distance from clouds), there was no one to talk to bellow FL100 or in TWR…

Last Edited by Ibra at 14 Jan 16:55
Paris/Essex, United Kingdom

what came totally unexpected for me was that the cloud base suddenly fell down

Those weather phenomenons tend to be very localised and if they are on large scale it’s usually +50kts winds against terrain or +/-30kts vertical air with dew point at 45deg, the typical weather where people get caught “VFR in IMC” is rather smooth in time & space, sometimes it’s in small fluffy cumulus or long stratus, nothing fancy like sirens & dragons, you will see it coming from miles away starting with 10km visbility !

The real problem while people get caught “VFR in IMC” is low VMC minima for VFR, they are way too generous and mostly for local pilots and circuits: the required weather for easy VFR cross-country is north of 8km visbility & 3000ft agl cloudbase, anything bellow that is in territory of: local flying and familiarity, or territory of IFR above MSA, or VFR on top, or turn back and divert, or precautionary field landings

The biggest misleading on is “reduced VMC” for VFR in Golf it’s useless for cross-country: 1.5km and clear of clouds say under 1000ft ceiling or punching through holes in 500ft ceiling (even 800m for ULM/Helis) is really hardcore for any visual 100kts cruise at 1000ft agl

It’s only OK for circuits & takeoffs & landings, this fact may not be appreciated by IFR pilots, who spend hours talking how they can do LVO near thresholds in 550m on ILS, the same guys will get fried on hill and eaten alive if they ever go into the wild with 1.5km visual navigation at 500ft agl, for start: they can barely fly at 500ft VFR in CAVOK? then the first time one discovers “500ft picture” is when they clock 139kias in a touring SEP with IMC everywhere…

Many IFR pilots will consider days with “reduced VMC” (500ft ceiling & 1.5km visbility) as days for ILS & RNP with 3km runways, one thing for sure, it’s difficult to navigate to grass runways with 1.5km visibility even with 3D guidance and/or some familiarity, ideally, you need 3 big white aircraft parked somewhere & 2 roads and 1 house to be able to triangulate, the actual runway threshold and grass won’t become visible and identified untill 200ft agl or during the flare

So it’s clear to me how this happens to IR pilots: they surely 1/ can fly IFR near runways with 800m & 200ft (not sure about 800m, not many IRI with two brain cells will take that one as IFR teaching day, so it has to come from trial & error), 2/ can fly VFR cross-country with 8km & 3kft with 500ft away from obstacles 3/ can fly IFR cross-country with zero & zero sitting 1000 ft above obstacles and 4/ can fly SVFR near runways with 1.5km & 600ft ceiling

I doubt an IR pilot is properly trained or qualified to fly “ VFR cross-country with 1.5km & 500ft between obstacles ”, the real question does he knows that? as start, there is no way to train a pilot for low visibility flying outside FSX/XP, the first time bellow 2km visibility will be on his real flight, hopefully an IFR flight or local VFR circuit…

Last Edited by Ibra at 14 Jan 21:43
Paris/Essex, United Kingdom

@ Cobalt yes indeed you will get help from ATS in France. I remember 2 published REX in the last year. One I wrote up in another thread was a ULM in the foothills of the Alps, suddenly finding himself in IMC due to cloud descending much lower than predicted, he turned but found that the cloud had also closed in behind him. He told the FIS and between them, ATCOs and Military controllers they manage to vector him to a safe landing. One big problem that had to be overcome was the fact that the ULM had no AI of any kind. The pilot lived, was unharmed and told the tale.
The second was a TB 10, pretty well equipped for NFVR but this was a day VFR flight which started in pretty good weather with broken at 5000ft. It happened in an area between Nantes and Rennes. During the course of the 1 hr flight the ceiling lowered quite dramatically. He had a planned route which was mainly in class G starting and ending at Rennes. When he turned 90° he noted the clouds were a bit lower so took avoiding action to maintain VMC when he turned again to return to Rennes he found himself heading for lowering cloud. He took more avoiding action. I should point out he had no GPS. This state of affairs continued several times until he eventually realised he was not only lost but in and surrounded by cloud. ATC vectored him back to Rennes with no hint of recrimination, He too lived to write his experience up in a REX. IIRC he described how he seemed to forget everything he had ever learnt and just didn’t know where to turn or what to do next as he became more and more aware of his situation. He went on to describe how comforting the ATCOs voice was and how it helped him think logically and regain the things he had learnt. The guy had 2000 hours PIC on SEPs. He also remarked that he thought such a thing could never happen to him especially in this area where he had done a great deal of flying and thought he knew like the back of his hand. Hence he hadn’t bothered to take his GPS with him.
He did not have an instrument rating but he had done a VSV (vol sans visibility: flight without visibility) course with an instructor earlier in the year. Sometimes nature can throw us a curveball.

France

Being able to ‘think straight’ and not panic, is the biggest life saver in these circumstances.

That may happen because you have an experienced buddy onboard to shed the workload, you haven’t planned it but are qualified and can get sorted, or you are experienced but perhaps not legal for some reason.
I always relied on my IMC-rating training as a tool to ‘not panic’ even when on occasions it was long since lapsed.

When in the UK, to fly frequently & when planned, you have to be prepared to fly when it’s not perfect wx.
Some days the wx is better than forecast, some days as forecast, but eventually there will be some where even the best met guys get it wrong. ie you are away from base, heading home and thinking…..where did this crap come from?
If you are very cautious you’ll have not gone that day but when I used to be that guy, I cancelled many flights. Some people are happy with that, some get frustrated and give up flying, I got experience and occasionally flew in legal VFR, but realistically very marginal wx.
The legal minimum is quite extreme unless in a heli or anything suitable for a field and landing at <35kts.
I would never encourage anyone to do that but would not criticise a pilot of competence for doing it.

United Kingdom

There are load of accidents by “VFR only flights”, however, those by IR pilots are interesting and they all involved hitting terrain, the most notable ones were with very IR experienced pilot, sometimes even with two pilots inside the same cockpit doing s***t show bellow safe altitude, recent examples: one in Greenland to Goose Bay and another one in Spain to San Sebastián, in clouds surrounded by terrain with zero awareness of height & obstacles the pilot is usually swamped and dumb as hell that qualifications rarely matters

On climb strategy vs scud run strategy, here is a sad example (one out of 4 CFIT accidents in UK), what is interesting is they were two aircrafts with exactly the same equipment, one flying in clouds at the planned min VFR altitude (500ft above obstacles) before executing their cloud break, the other one was flying all over the place bellow cloud base on visual navigation, I won’t get into the legalities of these flights (both are illegal anyway) but this graph does give a lesson on flying performance, it’s remarkable how a non-IFR pilot stayed on tack within -/+1nm exactly at his VFR cruise altitude using 100£ tablet and zero IFR training !

In the other hand, no idea why on earth an IFR rated instructor with 6000h, CPL & IMC rating can’t fly in clouds in uncontrolled airspace wing level at some min cruise altitude? (let’s say 100ft flat above highest obstacle along whole route if PIC holy aim was to stay out of clouds and in sight of ground but without having die hard trying), maybe because he was flying with student? icing at 2kft? of course, he could have turned 180 back at cruise altitude as well…

PS: against all odds, they did not hit each other in clouds, they took off on exactly the same route: 2min delta on takeoff, 500ft on altitude and 1nm/2nm on distance…still makes me wonder how much lookout and traffic scan an IR pilot does when “trying to remain VMC at 500ft agl”? and how much that is effective? after all it’s the only sensible reason to avoid IMC in Golf for anyone IR rated and IFR equipped, this key element: mid-air-collision seems to be missing when pilots talk about their experiences of “inadvertent VFR in IMC encounters”…

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5f5a372fe90e07207d61d859/Piper_PA-28-161_Cherokee_Warrior_III_G-WAVS_12-18.pdf

Last Edited by Ibra at 15 Jan 01:04
Paris/Essex, United Kingdom

There are load of accidents by “VFR only flights”, however, those by IR pilots are interesting and they all involved hitting terrain, the most notable ones were with very IR experienced pilot, sometimes even with two pilots inside the same cockpit doing s***t show bellow safe altitude, recent examples: one in Greenland to Goose Bay and another one in Spain to San Sebastián, in clouds surrounded by terrain with zero awareness of height & obstacles the pilot is usually swamped and dumb as hell that qualifications rarely matters

If you are referring to the two I think you are referring to, both used a VFR app (Skydemon) which is so complex that many don’t understand how to use it properly. One of them involved two VFR-only pilots flying in IMC, and the other one involved a ferry flight with the customer being new to the type and the ferry pilot he paid to come along posted that he was using his laptop at the time of the collision. On the latter one, has anyone checked the accuracy of terrain depiction in the area of the crash? They were flying at a ridiculously low altitude given the general area.

Sure, plenty of IR holders have done CFITs. Sometimes it involves lots of familiarity with the area (but getting it wrong). On another occassion (N403HP) the guy was flying a circuit for the benefit of Vienna radar (because he cancelled IFR way back) but happened to be in IMC, and got it wrong. In a few cases (e.g. N2195B) it looked like the pilot was somebody who “always flies” and barely checked the wx.

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Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom
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