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Escaping IMC

Source:, Featuring Wally Moran

Subscriber Question:

"I was in training, already soloed but VFR circuits only. One morning I took off and before reaching pattern altitude I entered an area of thick fog. With the help of the controller I did manage to climb through it, then remain clear and land. Needless to say it was a frightening situation. Is there a particular suggested procedure when a VFR pilot encounters an IFR situation?" - Ivan V.


"What to do when a VFR pilot encounters an IFR situation? Given the situation in the example I am wondering if a better weather briefing might have helped to prevent this situation. I complement this pilot for remaining calm and asking for ATC help. These actions ultimately resolved the situation safely. Obviously this pilot had some recent hood time.

Depending upon the situation there may be more than one best procedure for getting out of the inadvertent IFR situation. If you accidentally climb into the clouds you merely need to keep the wings level and start a slow descent (assuming you are at a safe altitude). You should soon descend back out of the clouds.

On the other hand if you are flying into deteriorating weather the best course here is to make a standard rate 180 degree turn and fly back to the good weather you recently left. That is assuming you were in good weather when you took off. If you are a VFR only pilot and takeoff in low ceilings or visibilities you are making a big mistake.

In either situation avoid the temptation to move quickly. Be sure to keep your turns at a shallow bank angle. Some pilots in an effort to get out of the weather quickly will attempt a steep turn which can result in a spiral. Keep the bank under 20 degrees and maintain a level pitch attitude.

If these actions do not get you out of the conditions maintain heading and altitude and contact ATC for assistance. Further all VFR pilots should practice the basic IFR maneuvers under the hood on a regular basis so as to be prepared and ready for this situation."

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