Pilot's tip of the week

Night IFR and Fatigue


Subscriber question:

"I use my airplane for business travel, but I don't fly IFR at night. I'm not comfortable flying at the end of the day. It's cost me quite a few extra hotel stays and rescheduled meetings. Is this common?" - Rob K.


“The entire reason to have our own set of personal minimums is to reduce the risk that we face as IFR pilots. Hopefully, if we think about these risks in the cold light of day without any pressures, we’ll come to some better conclusions than we will when we’re trying to get home some night.

My list of factors that I think about specifically when I’m preparing for an IFR flight are: fatigue, day versus night, the equipment available and recent experience.

We’ve read a lot in the past about fatigue in pilots. We don’t need to read very many accident reports before we come to one that says …The pilot was returning home after a long day’s work…  Now he’s trying to make a minimums approach at an airport in the night, at the worst time in his day. I know from personal experience that when a professional pilot is scheduled to fly late at night, they don’t work on projects all day. They plan to fly that night. They plan their day so as to be rested for the evening work. I wonder why it is we think we can work all day and then fly like a professional pilot so late into the night.

You also need to keep your plans flexible. You need to make your plans so that the remain overnight decision is an easy one for you, not a hard one. If you set your schedule up so tight that you must be some place, that’s another pressure that you put on yourself that’s unnecessary. When you find yourself in this situation, you need to recognize that you’re in a category of a pilot that is at higher risk. We need to recognize this additional risk and adjust our personal minimums accordingly.

For me personally, that means that a single pilot IFR is out of the question at the end of a long day.”

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