IFR out of airports with no IAP

midlifeflyer

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I'm looking for pilots who file IFR out of airports with no instrument approaches.

It's for a possible article on the subject for IFR Magazine and I'm looking for real-world examples. Feel free to message me privately. If you answer here, I'll probably end up contacting you for details
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Edit: I'd better be more specific.

In marginal VFR or IMC, how do you maintain terrain and obstacle clearance on departure?
 
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Once a year I file and fly out of I83 (Salem IN--no IAPs) as we stop there to visit friends on our way back from Osh each year since 2015. I'm willing to help out but not sure my very limited experience would be of much help.
 
Contact your local fixed wing air ambulance pilot
 
I assume you're specifically thinking about when you need clearance pre-takeoff due to low weather or other factors?

Some considerations beyond the basics of getting a clearance (find the clearance phone # in the AFD) that I feel are important in this type of departure assuming a typical piston single:
-- what's your "out" if you go IMC and have an emergency in the climb. I would want a departure "alternate" pretty close at hand that is above minimums
-- what's your personal minimums for such a departure? I'd probably want something at least Class G MVFR for a return option via the pattern immediately after takeoff
-- what's the terrain / obstacle situation, you're on your own in this situation
-- For a Class G airport, there's always the possibility of VFR traffic operating 1nm Clear of Clouds which will need to factor into your departure planning. Doubly so in a place where ADSB / Mode C aren't required.
 
I assume you're specifically thinking about when you need clearance pre-takeoff due to low weather or other factors?
Not a bad assumption, but no. My scenario is assuming you have already decided you need your clearance before you depart. In fact, you've already filed.
-- what's the terrain / obstacle situation, you're on your own in this situation
That's what I'm looking for, not general statements of principle. Instead I'm looking for

real-world examples.

If you fly out of an airport like that, what do you do when departing that airport IFR.
 
So this is what I do for departing I83 IFR, which I only do once a year:
-- I evaluate the terrain and obstacle situation, predominately relying on NOTAMs from nearby airports, particularly my "designated" abort alternate. This is usually a nothing burger as the terrain is pretty flat around this airport.
-- I review my abort airport's IAPs as well as a few of the surrounding airports in different directions to see what they in the way of Special Take-Off Minimums/Departure Procedures that will help me paint a picture of the surrounding area
-- I don't depart at night or if my nearby abort airport METARs are reporting below the circling mins
-- Although I don’t load an abort approach (probably should as a technique but I don't), I do bring up the "Nearest Airport" page on my IFR Navigator so I can select one quickly if needed.
-- Finally, I brief the expected abort IAP while in the run-up area
 
I evaluate the terrain and obstacle situation, predominately relying on NOTAMs from nearby airports, particularly my "designated" abort alternate. This is usually a nothing burger as the terrain is pretty flat around this airport
I'm going to send you a PM on this. If you want to answer the PM publicly, go ahead.
 
I’m based out of an airport without any IAP’s and I file IFR out of it.

Obviously it’s not TERP’d and I also don’t depart in LIFR conditions, but us local pilots are aware of the surrounding terrain and account for aircraft performance to remain clear of obstacles. There’s definitely a risk of departure in conditions less than MVFR.
 
I’m based out of an airport without any IAP’s and I file IFR out of it.

What’s the questions of study?
Assuming no better than marginal VFR, but better yet, IFR conditions, how do you assure yourself of terrain and obstruction clearance when departing? Or do you have personal departure minimums?

One example I received came down to, "It's my home base and I know where the obstructions are. If I depart eastbound toward [FXNAME] I will not hit anything until reaching the minimum IFR altitude in that area."

I'm taking specifics like that privately and won't mention names of people, only airports. I don't care if you want to say it publicly, but, you just know there will be someone to yell about how illegal they think it is and one has to be a fool to do it. And no guarantee I will use it. Just looking for no more than 2-3 examples form people who have different methods.
 
Assuming no better than marginal VFR, but better yet, IFR conditions, how do you assure yourself of terrain and obstruction clearance when departing? Or do you have personal departure minimums?

One example I received came down to, "It's my home base and I know where the obstructions are. If I depart eastbound toward [FXNAME] I will not hit anything until reaching the minimum IFR altitude in that area."

I'm taking specifics like that privately and won't mention names of people, only airports. I don't care if you want to say it publicly, but, you just know there will be someone to yell about how illegal they think it is and one has to be a fool to do it. And no guarantee I will use it. Just looking for no more than 2-3 examples form people who have different methods.
For the record, I have not and don’t plan to depart in conditions where terrain is entirely obscured. I haven’t departed in anything less than MVFR and can maintain a visual on any obstacles til I enter IMC. Clearance is received on the ground via telephone and I blast off. It may sound like a lame thing to say, but those of us who are locals, know that we won’t hit anything as long as the airplane performs like it should. ;)
 
The “Aviation News Talk” podcast recently did a whole piece on this… might be worth a listen.
 
When I learned to fly in 1991, Palo Alto had no instrument approaches. The tower always gave IFR aircraft a clearance that started with a turn to heading 060 within one mile of the airport, an initial altitude to fly, an altitude to expect within a certain period of time, and expect radar vectors to the en route course. After approaches began to be published for the airport, the departure instructions have remained the same even though they differ from the ODP.

Due to the hills/mountains around San Francisco Bay, my instrument instructor emphasized the importance of speaking up if the designated period of time passed without receiving clearance to a higher altitude.
 
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Assuming no better than marginal VFR, but better yet, IFR conditions, how do you assure yourself of terrain and obstruction clearance when departing?
I haven't tried it, but I would imagine that an airport with the departure end at the shoreline of a large body of water would simplify the problem. Mountains and towers tend not to pop up in those areas.
 
How does a pilot in a pop up IFR (IMC) request determine their ability to maintain their own terrain and obstacle clearance until reaching the MIA? I don’t think the FAA has ever come out with a letter specifying how they do that.
 
Not sure if I ever did it or not (I think once?) but I would fly out of 8NC8 under an IFR flight plan under MVFR or "high IFR" conditions. Not much around to hit, assuming you maintain a climb gradient.

For me, the issue is less to do with "how do you keep clear of obstacles" -- if you clear the trees and power lines off the end of the runway, you'll clear everything else too -- and more to do with "what if you have a mechanical emergency on takeoff." From 8NC8, I made sure to have the RDU plates close to hand (they would be the departure controllers on an IFR plan anyway) and figure that if you lost an engine on initial climb out, a little clouds wouldn't really get in the way of your choice of landing in the trees, lake, or highway. My iPad GPS is good enough to aim for the lake.
 
How does a pilot in a pop up IFR (IMC) request determine their ability to maintain their own terrain and obstacle clearance until reaching the MIA? I don’t think the FAA has ever come out with a letter specifying how they do that.
It requires the use of terrain and obstruction charts (e.g., sectionals and TACs, and sometime USGS charts), generous safety margins, and good judgment.

When I have done it, I have advised ATC how I plan to avoid terrain and obstacles, just to reassure them that I'm not an idiot (or confirm that I am, as the case may be ;)).
 
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if you clear the trees and power lines off the end of the runway, you'll clear everything else too -
Sounds about right for 8NC8, though I'm not sure how much I would trust that.
and more to do with "what if you have a mechanical emergency on takeoff
Prison yard at Buttner? :D

Unrelated: how long have you been based there?
 
I don't think emergency planning, as important a consideration as it is for all departures, is relevant to the question of how do you avoid terrain and obstacles before reaching the MIA when departing in IFR/MVFR conditions at an airport that does not have an IAP. In the case of an airport with an IAP, it will have been evaluated for IFR departures and a DP or ODP will be available if needed. With an airport that does not have an IAP, you have to determine your own departure procedure and terrain and obstacle information. Familiarity with the airport and the relevant obstacle/terrain situation surrounding it is an important consideration for reducing the risk.

If you are not familiar with the airport, you can use resources such as charted VFR Sectional MEF, charted obstacles and Low IFR OROCA enroute information. EFB as well as many FMS/GPS/MFD provide graphical terrain and obstacle information although obstacle databases typically have 56 day update cycles. ForeFlight uses a 28 day obstacle update cycle. Obstacle NOTAMs around airports should also be reviewed. Since obstacle data can be 28 days or older, there is always some risk that new obstacles won't be included on a chart, EFB, or FMS/GPS/MFD system. The FAA also publishes center MIA charts and TRACON MVA charts which give one an idea of how high one has to climb to before reaching a safe IFR altitude. Unfortunately, these MIA/MVA charts are not updated on a regular basis, so may not match what ATC is using.

For departing IFR at an airport that does not have an IAP, the pilot should determine personal minimums for being able to maintain obstacle and terrain clearance until reaching the MIA/MVA. The higher the ceiling and visibility, the lower the risk and the risk is higher if you are not already familiar with the obstacle/terrain challenges and have previously evaluated a departure route in VFR conditions.

I would expect ATC to will not issue a clearance or release until you respond affirmatively to something like “Verify this clearance will allow compliance with terrain or obstruction avoidance.” or "enter controlled airspace on heading XXX" or "are you able to maintain your own terrain and obstruction clearance until reaching (appropriate MVA/MIA)".
 
My grass strip has no IAP, but there are two airports within 5 miles that do.

It used to be quite easy. I can raise ZTL on the ground here and they had no problem giving me a clearance. Now we're in CLT approaches space. They're harder to get a hold of. Even ZTL tried to get them to relay a clearance once and CLT would deal with them.. So now I just maintain VFR until I get a couple of miles north and pick up with ZTL.
 
I would expect ATC to will not issue a clearance or release until you respond affirmatively to something like “Verify this clearance will allow compliance with terrain or obstruction avoidance.” or "enter controlled airspace on heading XXX" or "are you able to maintain your own terrain and obstruction clearance until reaching (appropriate MVA/MIA)".
A heading upon entering controlled airspace is fairly standard unless the routing covers it anyway. The question about terrain and obstruction clearance is only required for an VFR departure with an in-flight pickup, but some controllers will ask the question in other circumstances as well.
 
A heading upon entering controlled airspace is fairly standard unless the routing covers it anyway. The question about terrain and obstruction clearance is only required for an VFR departure with an in-flight pickup, but some controllers will ask the question in other circumstances as well.
The question if a pilot can maintain their own terrain / obstruction clearance can be asked in an IFR pop up but the pilot could be asked if their clearance will comply as well. “Verify this clearance will allow compliance with terrain or obstruction avoidance?” It’s not clear when that should be asked but in a class E surface area, the controller has to have pilot concurrence to issue a heading / turn immediately on departure. In that case, I’d definitely ask the question.

The whole “when entering controlled airspace…” is only for departing a class G. A heading, while common in a class E surface area or class G is still only when necessary. If there’s no traffic or airspace restrictions then a CAF with no heading or ODP works just fine.

Controllers get used to asking the pop up IFR question so it seems required when in some cases (VMC) not. Just like controllers get used to issuing departure instructions off a non towered field when in some cases it not necessary. Don’t even get me started on the whole “and flight” phraseology for a formation. ;)
 
Agree with everything, but this one struck me funny. Pretty silly to give that instruction when you are in controlled airspace on the ground, right? :D
Well the book says “at all other airports…” but yeah, it’s a given that they’re referring to a class G.

Thing is, while probably 90 % of the time a heading is assigned off a class G, it’s really not that good at ensuring seperation. That’s because depending on if E starts at 700 or 1200 ft, there’s a lot of maneuvering that can be down in G before they enter the E in the assigned heading. While I assigned the heading for every class G IFR, I never used that for lateral seperation from other IFRs. I still used vertical sep until radar was established. It helps to ask the pilot what runway they’ll be departing but even that can’t be relied on. That’s part of the reason of the whole “one in and one out” in going into non towered fields.
 
Thing is, while probably 90 % of the time a heading is assigned off a class G, it’s really not that good at ensuring seperation.
That's not surprising. If I'm departing a Class G airport, I might need to maneuver due to VFR traffic. I'm not likely to make what many consider to be a standard turn at 400 AGL. I might or might not take advantage of a simple ODP like one calling for a runway heading climb to an altitude before turning in a particular direction (and I might or might not tell you if I do). I might be rolling my own obstacle profile. Just too many variables unless you ask or I tell you exactly what I'm planning for a departure profile.

The 7110 also talks about assigning ODPs when needed for traffic separation. I've been assigned a few that were very clearly for that purpose.
 
Agree with everything, but this one struck me funny. Pretty silly to give that instruction when you are in controlled airspace on the ground, right? :D
There are darned few places where you have a class E surface area without an approach. It would have to be an airport that is inside the surface area for some other airport that has an approach.
 
That's not surprising. If I'm departing a Class G airport, I might need to maneuver due to VFR traffic. I
Even in class D and E surface areas you may have to maneuver. Your IFR clearance doesn't give you right of way.
 
Wadena, MN, used to have a grass airport with no instrument approaches. The critical obstacles were the trees off the end of the runway, and as long as I could see to avoid them I was good. More importantly was having the required visibility for takeoff in Class G, often at night. There was a tower about 3 miles away that served as a visibility marker at night, and there was lower stuff that I could see in the daytime for the 1 mile requirement.
 
I file out of 52F (Northwest regional) and pick it up on the ground over the phone. Lately I am thinking I will start picking it up in the air because the clarence is simpler and my phone over the lightspeeds is really quiet..
 
Just an update. Between this group and a instrument pilot group on Facebook, I have better material than I expected.
What's the name of that Facebook group?

I've found a number of aviation-related groups there that are much better than Facebook's reputation would suggest.
 
What's the name of that Facebook group?

I've found a number of aviation-related groups there that are much better than Facebook's reputation would suggest.
Instrument Flying and Currency.

But don't set your expectations too high. Like anywhere, there are people who know what they are talking about and those who are clueless. You still have to separate the wheat from the chaff and verify, verify, verify. But just because of size, there's a good number of people with good experience. You'll recognize some names and not others. I probably answer more than I ask, but when I ask something like this I get a bunch of decent answers.
 
How does a pilot in a pop up IFR (IMC) request determine their ability to maintain their own terrain and obstacle clearance until reaching the MIA? I don’t think the FAA has ever come out with a letter specifying how they do that.
In Florida from about 2006-2011, I worked for a part 135 operator that allowed this. We would come up with JAX approach in G airspace and would basically see where we were on the GPS and would identify the towers that way. VFR minimums (no A021) back then were 300 and 1/2 if I recall.

The Agusta 109E would climb about 2000 fpm with no issues so we were normally well above the MVA in less than 60 seconds.
 
Sounds about right for 8NC8, though I'm not sure how much I would trust that.

Prison yard at Buttner? :D

Unrelated: how long have you been based there?
Depends how you want to count. I came down to the Durham in 2008 for med school (finished my PPL in college at Penn State) and rented from / started IFR training with Paul Hesse, who was based at Lake Ridge at the time. Left in 2010 to do a PhD that had me traveling between England (no flying there, but a little gliding, which was fun) and Baltimore, where I finished my IR (though took my check ride with Zenda randomly while stopping for rest on a drive up from Key West back to Baltimore).

Came back to Durham in 2015 for the last year of med school, and kept flying with Paul briefly, but he'd moved to HNZ, which was a bit much of a commute for fun flying / renting. Asked around and found a partnership in a 182 based at Lake Ridge (I was the third) so was based there for another couple of years before we got frustrated with the frequently-wet field and the lack of instrument approach, and moved to RDU. One of the partners in the 182 still keeps a 172 at 8NC8 though, and we use mechanics on the field, so we're there once in a while.
 
In Florida from about 2006-2011, I worked for a part 135 operator that allowed this. We would come up with JAX approach in G airspace and would basically see where we were on the GPS and would identify the towers that way. VFR minimums (no A021) back then were 300 and 1/2 if I recall.

The Agusta 109E would climb about 2000 fpm with no issues so we were normally well above the MVA in less than 60 seconds.

Yeah I did the same thing at Ft Rucker as a IP. While the schedule called for VFR maneuvers, we weren’t restricted to that.

The perfect training day / night is when we had right at training mins (1000 / 3). You’d go out and do basic tactical routes and then I’d recover with a PAR or an ILS. Call approach in class G, they’d ask the big question. I’d replied in the affirmative and then “cleared to Cairns via…” Now did I do a thorough recon of my surroundings with all the charts available to me? Nah, but I knew the area like the back of my hand and I knew in the 60 secs it took to get us to the MVA (2,000) I wasn’t going to go “bump in the night” with any immovable object.
 
Instrument Flying and Currency.

But don't set your expectations too high. Like anywhere, there are people who know what they are talking about and those who are clueless. You still have to separate the wheat from the chaff and verify, verify, verify. But just because of size, there's a good number of people with good experience. You'll recognize some names and not others. I probably answer more than I ask, but when I ask something like this I get a bunch of decent answers.
Thanks. That has to be the strictest set of group rules I have ever seen!

I'm well aware of the need to verify offered information, especially on Facebook.
 
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