Flying Blind - Why VFR pilots get into trouble in the clouds

Discussion in 'Pilot Training' started by Matt Gunderson, Jan 6, 2019.

  1. Matt Gunderson

    Matt Gunderson Filing Flight Plan

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2019
    Messages:
    15
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Matt Gunderson
    Ever heard of 178 seconds to live? A few weeks ago my friend Martin Pauly and I went out for breakfast in his A36 Bonanza and we decided to make a video demonstrating him flying "by the seat of his pants" to see how long he could fly before getting into an unusual attitude. Martin is an in extremely high time, experienced, and skilled pilot, and yet it took him about 3 minutes (180 seconds) before we were in an unusual attitude. Watch the video

     
    KaiGywer likes this.
  2. Half Fast

    Half Fast En-Route

    Joined:
    May 7, 2016
    Messages:
    3,079
    Location:
    Central Florida
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Half Fast
    :popcorn:
     
    Tantalum likes this.
  3. Huckster79

    Huckster79 Pre-takeoff checklist

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2018
    Messages:
    178
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Huckster79
    I would like to see a video with a VFR pilot and instructor in actual IMC to see how the vfr pilot could do with the rudementary instrument training we received in our private pilot training.

    My instructor taught me the full trim glide if i ever got myself in a real bad spot, he said "better to glide down that way and break through on bottom or worse case full trim glide into trees vs death spiral drilling your own grave"
     
  4. gsengle

    gsengle Pattern Altitude

    Joined:
    May 9, 2016
    Messages:
    1,905
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Gsengle
    Would love to see it. Truth is, real IMC is surprisingly frightening stuff at first... And most will lose control before very long...


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
    Huckster79 likes this.
  5. Matt Gunderson

    Matt Gunderson Filing Flight Plan

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2019
    Messages:
    15
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Matt Gunderson
    Hmmm that’s a good idea. I often take up primary students into actual IMC to get them experience in real clouds, but haven’t brought a camera along. Thanks for the suggestion!
     
    Huckster79 and gsengle like this.
  6. eman1200

    eman1200 Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2013
    Messages:
    10,618
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    eman1200
    I would do it.
     
  7. PaulS

    PaulS Final Approach

    Joined:
    May 29, 2007
    Messages:
    7,575
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    PaulS
    My primary instructor did this with me before I got my license. He got a pop up and we flew through a cloud. It was pretty enlightening to me looking at that little artificial horizon keeping the airplane up right. We were in the cloud about a minute or two, enough for me to know I wouldn't want to do that without IFR training.
     
    gsengle likes this.
  8. Tantalum

    Tantalum En-Route

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2017
    Messages:
    2,643
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    San_Diego_Pilot
    The first problem is the notion that flying IMC is flying by the seat of your pants.. flying by the seat of your pants will always get you in trouble. So with that out of the way..

    ..why is this such a challenge? There are no fewer than 5 things in the cockpit that directly tell you what orientation your plane is in

    -Attitude Indicator
    -Turn coordinator
    -Directional Gyro
    -Compass
    -Altimeter (and VS.. although that has a delay)

    My CFI had me fly back in night IMC with everything but the compass, turn coordinator ball, and altimeter covered up. I did not understand why this was uniquely challenging? At his first request to do this I gawked a bit, having only about 90 hrs at the time.. but his retort to me was "when you lose your vacuum and electrical system and you're in the soup, what are you going to do?"

    **GRANTED. If there are two areas were PPL instruction is SEVERELY lacking it is being able to fly the plane safely by reference only to instruments, and engine operation
     
    JonH likes this.
  9. gsengle

    gsengle Pattern Altitude

    Joined:
    May 9, 2016
    Messages:
    1,905
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Gsengle
    Are ya now instrument rated?

    Heading into a cloud inadvertently as a non rated pilot is a surprise for one. For two it’s tough to focus if you get the least little bit of panic. Third its hard not to get a little panic when you know failure to perform is possible death within minutes. Four, that panic doesn’t appear until the CFI is not in the right seat taking off the guardrails. So practicing with a CFI actually gives you too much confidence. Five, generally the smooth sky you were in generally becomes bumpy when you enter the clouds. Finally it’s a skill that most need to practice to be able to do well.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
    iflyatiger, GRG55 and arkvet like this.
  10. arkvet

    arkvet Line Up and Wait

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2016
    Messages:
    747
    Location:
    Arkansas
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Brent
    FWIW I’m a pretty recent IFR rated pilot. Have about 10 hours total actual IMC in the book. Two days ago I had my first actual IMC post check ride with no cfii right swat. Despite the rigorous training and intentional flight into IMC it still registered somewhere on the pucker scale.

    I honestly can’t imagine having 3 hours of goggle time and then screwing up and getting into some serious clouds.

    Hard to explain to someone that hasn’t experienced it but the first few times you have to tell yourself that you’re betting your life on some instruments it’s hard pill to swallow!
     
    KaiGywer and gsengle like this.
  11. Matt Gunderson

    Matt Gunderson Filing Flight Plan

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2019
    Messages:
    15
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Matt Gunderson
    Thanks for your feedback and I totally understand how this exercise seems unrealistic.

    However, this exact scenario is what killed JFK Jr in his Piper Saratoga off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. JFK Jr had perfectly working instruments, flew into dark with no visible horizon, and even had instrument training, yet he succumbed to unusual altitude and ultimately killed himself and two passengers.

    An even worse scenario is when instruments fail in IMC. Even perfectly current, ATP rated 10,000+ instrument rated pilots have been killed by a vacuum failure in IMC. There is a fairly famous accident featured by AOPAs safety institute about this exact scenario of an ATP rated pilot who crashed due to a simple vacuum failure.

    I’ve had several vacuum failures in training airplanes (fortunately all VFR) and it is really eye opening to see how slowly and misleading the failure is. It is not immediately noticeable.

    Feel free to DM me if you have more questions on this subject
     
  12. arkvet

    arkvet Line Up and Wait

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2016
    Messages:
    747
    Location:
    Arkansas
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Brent
    Could not have said it better. Probably the best summary of why non proficient / non IFR pilots auger in so often. The cfi or experienced safety pilot changes the entire dynamic!

    For a similar reason I have my foggles on my forehead prior to entering IMC. Now I don’t use them, but in the event of a little panic / nerves I feel that dropping the foggles into place might just calm the nerves. I mean the bulk of my IFR time is SIM. Over time I’m sure I’ll lose that habit but for now I keep them close.
     
    Lndwarrior, LoLPilot and gsengle like this.
  13. geneb846

    geneb846 Filing Flight Plan

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2014
    Messages:
    8
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Gene
    My last bfr the instructor, did unusual attitudes and then, for some strange reason, covered up everything except the bare essentials. He left the dg so I would not cheat with foggles. I kept it wings level and was able to fly any heading he called out. I wanted to puke from the unusual attitudes the entire time. He was amazed I could do it.

    I am VFR only and if I can't see some blue sky the plane sits.
     
  14. gsengle

    gsengle Pattern Altitude

    Joined:
    May 9, 2016
    Messages:
    1,905
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Gsengle
    Do you think you could manage that focus if he disappeared from the right seat and you knew that failure to perform might mean death? That’s the factor that’s impossible to simulate... and a big one imho


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
    GRG55 and arkvet like this.
  15. Tantalum

    Tantalum En-Route

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2017
    Messages:
    2,643
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    San_Diego_Pilot
    Yes sir.. and I stay current, and proficient. I fly in Southern California so not as much actual as I'd like, but I do manage to squeeze in at least a couple actual hours in each year (and it's mostly when I'm cross country and outside of the local area.. yeah there's a marine later but you're in the clouds a minute or two, so that hardly counts). I'm well aware of the serious attention it deserves, and it's unnerving nature. My biggest surprise the first few times I was IMC was how the plane flies different and the turbulence is also different. It's scary the first few times, but like anything in life you learn to accept that fear and mitigate it through your training. Emotions are a *huge* part of the reason people lose their marbles in IMC. You theoretically have all the tools in front of you in the cockpit to stay right side up.. but it's the leading cause of accidents according to the NTSB. Why? Because people panic and over control the daylights out of the plane, and revert back to their human instincts of flying by the "seat of your pants"

    Yes, it's scary to blindly (literally) trust your instruments, but what other option do you have? Freak out? And it's unlikely every instrument in your plane will crap itself at once, but even if it does that compass and the little ball will work, and so will your altimeter (worst case scenario you smash the altimeter window). With those 3 instruments you can stay coordinated, and straight (no turning) and level (altimeter not moving). Really, people should be referencing all of that when in IMC, not just the attitude indicator. I've had an AI precess quite bad (POS club rental plane) in IMC with the thing showing a 5-15 degree left bank straight and level. So you check against TC, DG, compass, etc.

    It always will, and the moment it doesn't you have to take a step back as one may be getting over confident. I always breath a small sigh of relief coming out the top (or bottom) of a cloud

    **It is certainly unnerving, but it shouldn't be deadly in an otherwise perfectly good airplane. One thing I do when I know I'm going to encounter IMC is transition to instruments before I am in the cloud.. forget what's outside and keep your eyes in the plane.. that keeps me emotionally grounded

    Ice though, that scares me much more. Even in a FIKI plane ice is scary stuff

    The post triggered me and what may be seen as an "aggressive" response because the answers to this problem of people losing their cool in IMC isn't to teach pilots to best-glide it into the ground or that they're guaranteed to die. Emotions, in general, need to be checked at the door when flying, I mean it's basically on the IMSAFE list. People should avoid clouds because it's illegal to enter them if they're not flying IFR. But people should still be able to fly the plane by reference to instruments only. I mean, night VFR might as well be IMC. Ever flown over the AZ desert under a high overcast layer with no moon? It is pitch, freaking, black. You're using instruments there
     
    mcdewey, simtech, Huckster79 and 3 others like this.
  16. cowman

    cowman En-Route

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2012
    Messages:
    3,653
    Location:
    Danger Zone
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Cowman
    I got my IFR just under a year ago now and I think I almost had to do that to understand why I needed it.

    So every VFR pilot knows how to read their attitude indicator, you've probably done a little hood work with your CFI. That all seems simple enough and I admit, although I did heed the warnings as a VFR pilot and stayed well clear of clouds I always thought if I ever did get in there I could just follow the instruments and get out- no big deal. Sure you learn the proper procedures getting your IFR certificate and that matters but surely you could just fly vectors and escape a cloud layer right? Doesn't seem like it ought to be so hard, so why are so many pilots crashing when they get into that situation?

    Well when you do all your IFR flight training you get used to flying under the hood, you're spending many hours doing this- flying vectors from your CFI then learning to fly all the approaches and holds and such. They put you under more and more pressure as you train- you can't *just* fly the airplane, you're looking up charts, running through checklists, setting up radios, etc. That flying by instrument thing starts to become somewhat automatic and practiced in time- you are still looking at the instruments and thinking about what you're doing but it takes lest thought- you know the feel of things and how much control pressure it takes to make the little indicators move where they need to and whatnot.

    The significance of all of that should become apparent the first time you fly into actual. The first time(on purpose hopefully) is exciting, you've been looking forward to it. When you actually get close to the cloud it appears like things are moving much faster than perhaps you're used to seeing them(your motion relative to the cloud I mean). It actually is disorienting beyond the hood. With the hood on you are getting little flashes of ground around the corners of your vision, cues of light, etc. I never felt the least bit disoriented under the hood.... then we flew into a cloud and every reference I didn't know I was using was suddenly gone, even expecting it that's a bit jarring. Now since I'd become very used to flying on the instruments and I was ready and expecting to do so I just dropped my eyes to the panel and flew the same way I had under the hood. Within a very short period I noticed I had completely stopped paying attention to the clouds outside the window- they're distracting anyway. I don't think that I'd have gone to focusing only on my panel so easily if I hadn't gotten used to it over many flight hours of training before that which is, at least in my opinion, why IFR training matters and why so many pilots who enter IMC without it aren't able to keep the airplane under control.
     
    arkvet and gsengle like this.
  17. gsengle

    gsengle Pattern Altitude

    Joined:
    May 9, 2016
    Messages:
    1,905
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Gsengle
    What I used to find the scariest when I first got my IR was departing into a low overcast and making that visual to instrument transition so close to the ground.

    Now I do 1800RVR takeoffs and just do it. It took hundreds of hours to get there and lots of training. I don’t think private pilots should tackle the really low stuff if they don’t fly a ton... It takes a lot of flying to stay sharp.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
    PeterNSteinmetz, Tantalum and GRG55 like this.
  18. geneb846

    geneb846 Filing Flight Plan

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2014
    Messages:
    8
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Gene

    Yes, but that is like asking how will you do in your first gun fight fresh out of the academy?

    My first taste of IFR was a night flight. I took off and the front wheel shook so bad after take off the interior lights came on full strength. I could not see any thing and didn't know where the light knobs were. I knew there was a large hill in front and just flew by the numbers till I knew I was clear. Only a minute or two, but I lived.
     
    Huckster79, GRG55 and gsengle like this.
  19. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner En-Route

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2005
    Messages:
    4,756
    Location:
    Wichita, KS
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    MauleSkinner
    Instrument flying is a very perishable skill, a fact that seems to be lost on the FAA when it comes to training VFR pilots. Better to train a procedure that relies on the airplane's inherent stability rather than a pilot's perishable skill.

    Unfortunately this won't prevent the "death spiral", as it sill relies on the perishable pilot skills. I think the AOPA/U of IL technique is far superior to what the FAA requires.

    But honestly, somebody needs to shut Chicken Little up...Spouting "178 seconds to live" is like saying you're going to die because sugar pills don't cure a disease. That was the baseline, not the actual test result.
     
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2019
    Palmpilot and Huckster79 like this.
  20. Ryanb

    Ryanb Final Approach PoA Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2010
    Messages:
    8,282
    Location:
    Tennessee
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Ryan
    Most of us have.

    But have YOU heard of 178 seconds to find a toilet? Starring our very own @OkieFlyer !

     
  21. GRG55

    GRG55 Final Approach

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2015
    Messages:
    5,612
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Aztec Flyer
    Suggest you dig out and read some of the NTSB fatal accident reports of experienced IFR pilots that experienced spatial disorientation and stuffed the plane.

    Recall this PoA thread from Dec 2016?
    https://www.pilotsofamerica.com/community/threads/plane-missing-over-lake-erie.100257/#post-2199752

    Peter Garrison's "Aftermath" article in the Dec issue of Flying refers to it. And also references two two earlier accidents from the same airport under similar circumstances that ended exactly the same way. One of them was an 18,000 hour ATP and CFI-I flying a Baron.

    Think it can't happen to you? Think again...
     
  22. gsengle

    gsengle Pattern Altitude

    Joined:
    May 9, 2016
    Messages:
    1,905
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Gsengle
    If chicken little keeps VFR pilots out of the clouds, I’m all for it. They should be scared.

    Ultimately inexpensive autopilots for GA aircraft maybe the best answer of all. One big straight and level button, altitude hold with heading mode.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
    arkvet likes this.
  23. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner En-Route

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2005
    Messages:
    4,756
    Location:
    Wichita, KS
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    MauleSkinner
    Unfortunately Chicken Little is wasting his time. VFR pilots are still going into clouds.
     
  24. gsengle

    gsengle Pattern Altitude

    Joined:
    May 9, 2016
    Messages:
    1,905
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Gsengle
    Sure but maybe at lower rates than otherwise. I meet plenty of VFR pilots that have a healthy respect and accept that they don’t know what they don’t yet with regard to IMC.

    Then again we see plenty of “I don’t see what the big deal is” too. That’s what threads like this are about. If you reach even one... maybe a life and an airframe saved. You never know.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
    arkvet and GRG55 like this.
  25. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner En-Route

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2005
    Messages:
    4,756
    Location:
    Wichita, KS
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    MauleSkinner
    I'd rather reach one with facts than with lies.
     
    Palmpilot likes this.
  26. gsengle

    gsengle Pattern Altitude

    Joined:
    May 9, 2016
    Messages:
    1,905
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Gsengle
    And the fact is, VFR pilots overestimate their ability to not die in the clouds. Especially in aircraft like the Bonanza with its level of spiral divergence. Aircraft that accelerate quickly in a dive. Not a Maule. What is the lie here?


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
    Huckster79 likes this.
  27. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner En-Route

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2005
    Messages:
    4,756
    Location:
    Wichita, KS
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    MauleSkinner
    That "178 Seconds " has any basis in reality.
     
    Palmpilot likes this.
  28. gsengle

    gsengle Pattern Altitude

    Joined:
    May 9, 2016
    Messages:
    1,905
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Gsengle
    It does...


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  29. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner En-Route

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2005
    Messages:
    4,756
    Location:
    Wichita, KS
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    MauleSkinner
    What is that basis? Closing your eyes and flying an airplane is NOT reality.

    Pilots with zero instrument training (those used in the study) are no longer reality.
     
    Palmpilot likes this.
  30. GRG55

    GRG55 Final Approach

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2015
    Messages:
    5,612
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Aztec Flyer
    I remember reading an article many years ago (I think it was J. Mac McClellan writing in Flying mag) about the annual Collegiate National Flying Championships (Safecon). It was the first time in many years the weather was not VFR and students had to fly in actual IMC instead of with a hood. These are the top students from aviation academies across the Republic. And those teams have been practicing for the event. That year not one student could fly the IFR exercise to standards the first time they tried it. Not one student.
     
    arkvet and gsengle like this.
  31. gsengle

    gsengle Pattern Altitude

    Joined:
    May 9, 2016
    Messages:
    1,905
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Gsengle
    I sincerely don’t believe that those three hours of training solve the problem, for the reasons I mentioned above. I’d bet you could replicate the study again today. At least you have to concede it’s not *no* basis in fact.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
    Tantalum likes this.
  32. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner En-Route

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2005
    Messages:
    4,756
    Location:
    Wichita, KS
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    MauleSkinner
    I sincerely don’t believe those three hours of training solve the problem, either...like I said, I think the FAA is screwing that up.

    But if people are going to talk about the study, why only talk about the control part of the study and ignore the solution part? I guess if VFR pilots quit dying, Chicken Little would be out of a job.
     
  33. Tantalum

    Tantalum En-Route

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2017
    Messages:
    2,643
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    San_Diego_Pilot
    I know it can, that's why I fly often, in the system, and get as much actual as I reasonably can.. and the minute I stop getting that fear factor you get in the clouds I'll know there is a bigger problem there

    ..but so much of this around emotional management. 18,000 hr pilots who get spatially disoriented and die might be complacent, over confident, cocky, or just had a bad day. Eventually everyone will make a mistake if they fly enough... hopefully for most of us that mistake is not deadly
     
    Huckster79 likes this.
  34. gsengle

    gsengle Pattern Altitude

    Joined:
    May 9, 2016
    Messages:
    1,905
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Gsengle
    Sure I agree. But it’s a multi pronged solution. One part is ensuring the pilot community has a healthy respect of IMC. One part is training. One part is an optimal escape technique. And one part is technology.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  35. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner En-Route

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2005
    Messages:
    4,756
    Location:
    Wichita, KS
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    MauleSkinner
    OK...I can see where people might think scaring someone is developing healthy respect. I can even see people thinking that training is happening. But if we’re not training effective techniques, that’s a waste of time, too.
     
  36. GRG55

    GRG55 Final Approach

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2015
    Messages:
    5,612
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Aztec Flyer
    Three pilots, three airplanes - 2 Barons and a Citation jet - three night departures from the same runway at the same airport, followed by the same RH turn. Three fatals into the lake. Complacent? Over confident? Cocky? Really? The one thing I will agree with you is they certainly all had a bad day.
     
    Mtns2Skies likes this.
  37. gsengle

    gsengle Pattern Altitude

    Joined:
    May 9, 2016
    Messages:
    1,905
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Gsengle
    Of course training needs to include flying by reference to instruments. Straight and level and turns. As well as whatever turns out to be optimal escape techniques.

    I wish that making pilots appropriately scared of IMC were enough to keep em completely out of IMC, you can get caught even if you try to avoid for sure. But I don’t see much downside to sharing the knowledge that inadvertent IMC without more training than the PPL can kill you. Because it can. That’s all...


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
     
  38. Tantalum

    Tantalum En-Route

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2017
    Messages:
    2,643
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    San_Diego_Pilot
    ^^THIS^^ is what annoyed me so much about that video and created my strong reaction. It's a total straw man about what might make IMC and inadvertent IMC dangerous. We don't ask Bodie Miller to ski the glades with his eyes closed then wonder why he hits a tree. I'm sorry but the whole thing proves nothing beyond flying with your eyes closed is a dumb idea
     
  39. MauleSkinner

    MauleSkinner En-Route

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2005
    Messages:
    4,756
    Location:
    Wichita, KS
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    MauleSkinner
    But since we’re actually ignoring proven techniques, we’re back to Chicken Little.
     
  40. gsengle

    gsengle Pattern Altitude

    Joined:
    May 9, 2016
    Messages:
    1,905
    Display Name:

    Display name:
    Gsengle
    Yep very true.

    He should try it in IMC. They have looked at it before. Try it with and without different instruments. VFR pilots crash...


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk