A few days ago I came across a Facebook post by a good friend of mine, who is also a great flight instructor with instrument rating airplane privileges. He is a very active CFII, and teaches a whole bunch of instrument flying in a part of our nation where the weather is IMC for the most part of the year.

VFR into IMC

VFR into IMC kills

In that post, he mentioned how he used about an hour out of the minimum 3 required towards private pilot certification and took his student into actual IMC conditions, and even introduced him to ILS approaches. My personal and professional opinion about this is as follows –

  • The 3 hours required in the Private Pilot training are not to be used for anything else but to reiterate the fact that unintentional VFR flight into IMC is deadly, and should be avoided at all times. Proper weather briefing and proper flight planning is of the utmost importance to avoid getting into such a soup.
  • Still, if we do end up in IMC, the best course of action is to stay calm, maintain positive aircraft control, AND make a 180 degree level turn to get out the same way you got in. Weather is guaranteed to be VMC where you were just a few minutes ago.
  • Giving any instrument flight training to a basic student pilot, may, unintentionally convey a false sense of security to the student, This is especially true if the student is learning in an advanced GPS/Auto Pilot equipped aircraft.
  • Deliberate effort has to be made by the flight instructor to ensure that the student pilot understands just how dangerous an unintentional VFR into IMC could be.

Remember, the best course of action in such a situation is to stay calm, maintain positive control of the aircraft, and make a level 180 degree turn to get out the same way you entered in the first place, and the 3 hours required to learn “to fly an airplane with reference to instruments” in private pilot training should be spent just to learn this.

VFR flight into IMC is still the deadliest killer in general aviation – here is a link to the NALL Report.

Also, here is a link to a great article published by AOPA – VFR into IMC.

  • Depends on the student, depends on the circumstances.

    I haven’t sought to bring student pilots into IMC, but it’s happened. One case in particular stands out for me- about two years ago, I encountered unforcast IMC with a student pilot. The temperature converged with the dew point and low ceilings developed all around us. No 180 degree turn would take us out of that situation. My student was nervous, but glad that I was in the plane with him, rather than encountering this stuff on his own. Unable to maintain VMC, I asked for and got a local IFR clearance and we came back to base, breaking out a few hundred feet above minimums on an approach.

    The result of this was that he had a newfound respect for the elements, he learned that flying in clouds is NOT like just being under the hood. He saw that it could be done safely and well. He learned to to freak out and regard getting near the clouds as instant spinning death. He was eager to start work on his IFR training as soon as his private certificate was done. He now owns and regularly flies his own 182 with a good GPS and autopilot, but was happy to learn it old school and likes to hand-fly his approaches once he’s got them set up.

    • He learned NOT to freak out and regard the clouds as instant spinning death. NOT to. Sorry.