Flying in the Clouds is Different From “Under the Hood”…

FAA Safety Team | Safer Skies Through Education
Pilot Insights – It’s just a little weather – what’s the big deal?
Notice Number: NOTC5940
There is a big misconception about the complexities of flying in clouds. There are lots of YouTube videos and flying magazine articles about flights into clouds that result in fatalities. Among them, you’ll find one that says: “I don’t understand how anyone could make that mistake. All you have to do is look at that artificial horizon thing to figure out whether your wings are level or not.” Or, perhaps you are a low-time Private Pilot. You received three hours of instrument training with a hood of some type, and you did pretty well. So, what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that flying in a cloud is very different than pretending to fly in a cloud!

Here are two things to know before you fly in a cloud for real:

How flying “in the weather” differs from flying “under the hood”.
How to prepare for entering the clouds.

When you were certified you demonstrated your ability to fly straight and level, make climbs and descents and fly toward a VOR without looking outside of the plane. But, that hood, in short doses, does not demonstrate that you can maintain control of the aircraft while you are:

Entering data into the GPS.
Talking to someone.
Navigating to the correct point.
Fighting the fear that something very bad is going on.
Trying to calm your passengers who also know that you are in over your head.
Or, doing all these things at once.
And, never getting even a glimpse of the sky or ground to reorient your head.
Flying in the clouds for real, you see nothing outside but the inside of a cotton ball. Your head tells you one thing about your orientation; your instruments tell you something totally different. And, when you look away from the attitude indicator to retune a radio or GPS, the airplane has a tendency to roll into a bank without you seeing it or feeling it. When that bank degenerates into a descending spiral, all of the back pressure in the world will not stop the descent.

So, what do you do? Stay out of the clouds until you have your instrument rating. Do this by obtaining and HEEDING weather reports. Then, if you inadvertently find yourself in in a cloud, get out the same way you got in; slow turn back around, slow wings-level descent back down, or slow wings-level climb out of the cloud.

Even today, after years of flying with an instrument rating, I know that when I enter the clouds my head and my body will need a minute or so to fully accept the situation. So here’s what I do to prepare for entering the clouds:

My technique is the same whether climbing into a cloud after takeoff or descending into a cloud for an approach. About fifteen seconds before I enter the cloud, I ensure that I am wings-level, and that my eyes and my mind are focused on the attitude indicator. Then I start that familiar chant in my head: Attitude, altitude; Attitude, heading; Attitude airspeed… By being mentally “on the gauges”, before I need to be, I slide into the weather with a minimum of discomfort.

The next time you have an opportunity to fly with an instructor, ask to practice these techniques with some real clouds.

Want to see the aftereffects of inadvertent IMC? Check out this video. It has been around a while but, it truly represents the feeling of the first time in the weather. And, for pilots without adequate training, it depicts the typical ending, which comes in about three minutes. – –

Christopher Hope
2015 FAASTeam Representative of the Year
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FAA training: “VFR/IFR Decisions”

FAA Safety Team | Safer Skies Through Education
You have asked us to notify you when a seminar is scheduled that meets your criteria. The following seminar may be of interest to you:

“VFR/IFR Decisions”
Topic: VFR/IFR Decisions
On Tuesday, October 21, 2014 at 18:00
Broward College
7200 Pines Blvd
building 68, room 175 (Southern Breeze Café)
Hollywood, FL 33024
Select Number:

This presentation designed for pilots of all levels will cover several areas in making decisions about whether to fly VFR or IFR. What is the legal and practical definition of VFR? When is an IFR clearance required and who is authorized to fly it? What are the consequences of flying in weather that is less than VFR? The speaker will discuss real world scenarios to allow the participants to gain insight to making proper go/no-go flying decisions.

To view further details and registration information for this seminar, click here.

The sponsor for this seminar is: FAASTeam, South Florida FSDO 19

The FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam) is committed to providing equal access to this meeting/event for all participants. If you need alternative formats or services because of a disability, please communicate your request as soon as possible with the person in the ‘Contact Information’ area of the meeting/event notice. Note that two weeks is usually required to arrange services.

The following credit(s) are available for the WINGS/AMT Programs:

Basic Knowledge 3 – 1 Credit

Click here to view the WINGS help page
Invite a fellow pilot to the next WINGS Safety Seminar in your area.
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