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Escaping IFR Conditions

 Featuring Bob Nardiello

Subscriber Question:

"What is the best way to get out of IFR conditions when trapped as a VFR pilot?"
- Chris F.


"Avoidance and training are really the important factors here. Appropriate training will help you avoid getting trapped.

Get a weather briefing before every flight and be sure to update your weather enroute with Flight Watch or Data Link, as well as at every fuel stop online or with Flight Service. Be really careful about flying in Marginal VFR or above/between layers since either or both of these can potentially lead to inadvertent flight into IMC.

All private pilots must possess a rudimentary level of instrument skill for certification. Be sure to maintain these skills because it will allow you to maintain control of the aircraft in less than VFR conditions. Of course an IFR rating is most desirable.

Having said all of the above, if you inadvertently encounter IFR conditions, make a 180° turn at the first indication that the weather is degrading to the point where you will have difficulty in maintaining VFR. Sometimes changing altitude can help but be extremely cautious with descents. If trapped as you describe - climb, communicate and confess to ATC (using 121.5 if necessary) and comply with instructions.

If you have autopilot, use it. It can be an invaluable aid to control the aircraft. At a minimum it can assist you in keeping the wings level thereby avoiding a graveyard spiral. In an emergency, if forced to descend through clouds without an autopilot, use your GPS if it has terrain, to ensure you have a clear path below."

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