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3 Answers

Inadvertent VFR into IMC

Asked by: 1502 views
Flight Instructor, Private Pilot, Student Pilot

When teaching the basic instrument flight maneuvers to a private pilot student do you advocate the 180 degree turn after entering IMC or do you use the 180 degree turn as a preventative measure and prefer the 5 C's (Control, Climb, Communicate, Confess, Comply)? I have seen a lot of opposing opinions from reputable sources. I'm in the process of writing the lesson plan and trying to decide which way to teach it.

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3 Answers



  1. Mark Kolber on Oct 24, 2015

    The 180 is a basic maneuver since it returns you into the conditions that existed before you entered IMC and doesn\’t depend on knowledge of what is there if you don\’t make the turn. Straight ahead, smaller turns, climbs and descents all suffer from the same drawback – they all =assume= the maneuver will take you out of the clouds, which may or not be the case. And if not, we have a surprised and disoriented pilot who probably hasn\’t flown under the hood since his last FR (and maybe even not then). I\’m not sure wht they should do anything that doesn\’t involve a level turn back to visual (or straight ahead of the pilot is =certain=) that will get them out.

    Asking for help is always an option — and a good one — but the first step is to maintain control and get the heck out of there. I\’m not sure how trying to talk on the radio while climbing into the unknown helps.

    Now, the 180 s subject to a drawback – the ability to make that level turn despite all those years without the hood. But if the pilot can be instilled with the importance of that one maneuver, it might be something he or she practices with a friend in the right seat even if other hood work goes by the wayside.

    You didn\’t mention whether the airplane has an autopilot. If so, turning it on immediately can be a lifesaver in this situation even if the pilot never uses it otherwise.

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  2. BJ Miller on Oct 29, 2015

    I personally think of the 5C’s as an emergency procedure. In other words, I’ve already descended as low as I know is safe and my 180 degree standard rate turn (executed separate from the descent) failed to get me out of IMC. As these first two steps represent the least cockpit intensive (and therefore hopefully safest) courses of action, I will always advocate for them first. I recommend setting a clock limit. If I’m not out of IMC within 30 seconds (or whatever you choose) of my 180/descent, then I’m immediately initiating 5C’s. If I were an average low hour VFR solo in this situation, I would argue that this constitutes and in flight emergency. I totally agree with Mark that the 180 degree, level, SRT should be emphasized as a means of safely escaping/avoiding this situation.

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  3. ssgplazmoid on Nov 05, 2015

    If there’s any doubt they can’t handle a standard rate turn then 180 degree turn using rudder only I think is prudent?

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