Actual IMC experience for student pilots

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 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 –

VFR into IMC
VFR into IMC

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.

VFR flight into IMC is still the deadliest killer in general aviation.

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 (I appreciate this may not be the case in mid-west etc), 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.

In Airplane Flying Handbook, you will find this training under “Emergency Procedures”. And flying in a moonless dark night presents equal amount of risk, even though legally it might be completely VFR weather. 

Cory Lidle’s Cirrus SR-22 crash into a Manhattan Skyscraper

Cory Lidle was a New York Yankees pitcher, a private pilot and an aircraft owner. His Cirrus SR-22 crashed into a Manhattan skyscraper in October 2006, and on board with him was an FAA Certified Flight Instructor Tyler Stanger. There are a few videos attached with this post, for educational purposes, so we can learn how Human Factors play such a disastrous role in General Aviation accidents. 2 qualified pilots, one being a flight instructor, and a technically advanced aircraft – in controlled airspace – and in VFR conditions (marginal).
Here is the NTSB report excerpt:
On October 11, 2006, about 1442 eastern daylight time, a Cirrus Design SR20, N929CD, operated as a personal flight, crashed into an apartment building in Manhattan, New York City, while attempting to maneuver above the East River. The two pilots on board the airplane, a certificated private pilot who was the owner of the airplane and a passenger who was a certificated commercial pilot with a flight instructor certificate, were killed. One person on the ground sustained serious injuries, two people on the ground sustained minor injuries, and the airplane was destroyed by impact forces and post-crash fire. The flight was operating under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91, and no flight plan was filed. Marginal visual flight rules (MVFR) conditions prevailed at the time of the accident.
You can read the full report on NTSB’s site by clicking here. NTSB reported the probable cause as:
The pilots’ inadequate planning, judgment, and airmanship in the performance of a 180º turn maneuver inside of a limited turning space.

During your CFI course, we will cover the human factors, pilot errors and simple but critical flight maneuvers, like 180 degree power off turns, and chandelles. It is the responsibility of the CFI to not only teach the flight maneuvers properly, but to also develop the correct and safe attitude in his or her students.