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Deadly IFR Trap

Source:, Featuring Wally Moran


"Wally, a trap that seems to be very misunderstood and confusing to many pilots is the Obstacle Departure Procedure. Would you take a look at this trap for us and share with us whatever insights you can?"


"Sure, Bob. Think about this scenario regarding that. It starts with a newly-minted instrument pilot making his first IFR departure from a strange airport.

There’s a 600-foot ceiling, three miles visibility, and good weather just a few miles away. Just the kind of situation this guy thought he obtained his instrument rating for. Just a few minutes on instruments, I’ll be on top, and then sunshine all the way to my destination in good weather.

His ATC clearance was direct to a local VOR about five miles southwest of the airport. After that, as filed. The pilot was departing to the west on Runway 27 and as expected, he entered the clouds about 600 feet.

Soon thereafter, he began his turn towards the VOR. When the pilot failed to contact Departure Control, a search was begun. It was ultimately determined that the aircraft struck a tower located southwest of the airport at an elevation of 1,200 MSL."


"Sounds like this guy was complying with his ATC clearance. What the heck went wrong?"


"He actually did comply with his ATC clearance, Bob, but he failed to notice that small black circle with a “T” in it on the NACO Approach Charts for the departure airport.

Failing to note that little symbol turned out to be a deadly mistake for this pilot. The symbol indicates that either there are non-standard take-off minimums or an Obstacle Departure Procedure for the airport.

To determine if there was in fact an Obstacle Departure Procedure, the pilot is required to look up the airport in the front of the Approach Plate Book. In fact, the procedure for Runway 27 called for him to climb on runway heading to 2,000 MSL before proceeding on course."


"Wally, you mentioned the NACO charts. For those that use the Jeppesen Charts, what should they be looking for?"


"The Obstacle Departure Procedures on the Jeppesen Charts are listed on the back of the First Approach Plate for a particular airport.

These Obstacle Departure Procedures are provided at airports with instrument approaches anytime there is an obstacle problem in the departure path. They provide a safe way to depart the airport under IFR conditions and the trap is that they are not normally part of the ATC clearance.

We as pilots must incorporate a review of the Obstacle Departure Procedures as part of our planning. Since we also don’t know what specific runway we’ll use at that time, it’s also always necessary to make Obstacle Departure Procedures a part of your pre-takeoff briefing."