Saturday, April 01, 2017

Missing the Miss

In this months Aviation Safety magazine there was an excellent article on flying the missed on an approach. Instrument rated pilots practice this to not only keep current but proficient.

Missing the Miss

Accidents occurring during missed approaches reveal instrument pilots still need to work on preventing spatial disorientation and loss of control.

Lets address each issue that is discussed in the article.

Spatial Disorientation

Defines our natural ability to maintain our body orientation and/or posture in relation to the surrounding environment (physical space) at rest and during motion.

Statistics show that between 5 and 10% of all general aviation accidents can be attributed to spatial disorientation, 90% of which are fatal.

When things don't feel right trust your instruments. Check and cross-check, read and react. I have used my instrument rating more now than ever before. Flying out of a coastal airport presents its own set of issues. When I first moved to the beach I could not believe school was delayed for fog, until I drove in it. The Ocean City airport typically sees 400' overcast or worse when the fog conditions present themselves. I still maintain my personal minimums and I'm not leaving the ground in 400' overcast. Trust me, it's been hard enough getting in on the LPV with minimums of 261' crossing from ocean, over island, then the bay to the runway. For the instrument pilots out there we know to practice all phases of the approach. I personally have gone missed a few times. My opinion is if you immediately get vectors to final in order to try again it can be stressful. I like to slow things down and get to the hold. Once in the hold relax, re-evaluate and then make another go at an approach. After a second approach if I have to go missed I will fly to an airport that provides a better shot at getting in with higher minimums or is at least minimum VFR. Always have a backup plan!

Loss of Control/CFIT

I feel that loss of control is directly tied to spatial disorientation but lets look at it from another angle. Imagine yourself needing to shoot an approach to get home after a full day of flying. You know this approach is going to take you close to minimums but you tell yourself you are current and proficient and ready to fly to that initial fix. Thoughts of getting the plane tucked away and just getting home enter your thoughts, you squeeze them out and tell yourself just fly the plane. You're now inbound on final, dealing with winds and a bumpy ride. You are calling out altitudes and on course, just like you practice. A glimpse of ground just in front of your wing, back on instruments you go. As you just barely breakout you come off instruments and focus solely on the runway environment. In a flash the airport view is gone and you are back in the soup. Now you have to get back on instruments and maybe go missed. This is the point I think pilots face the greatest risk for loss of control. Your flying at a lower airspeed and low altitude, you just had a view of the airport, you breath that sigh of relief when all of a sudden your back in it and faced with the possibility of going missed. You suddenly scramble to find what your position is relative to the approach as your needles dance away.


How do we fix this problem? Keep current and remain proficient when needing to fly IFR. Fight the urge to transition away from the instruments, if and when you break out. Be prepared to go missed. When you do, follow the proper procedures, climbing out is not the time to look at what needs to be done.

Remember..."Currency goes in your logbook, PROFICIENCY keeps you alive."  - Old CFI

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