Pilot's tip of the week

Staying Ahead


Subscriber question:

"I have a tough time managing the workload during Instrument approaches. How can I stay ahead of the airplane?" - Tim H.


“The first skill that an instrument pilot needs to master is anticipation. You must be able to think ahead of the airplane and anticipate the next action rather than react. You should be thinking at least two steps ahead of the airplane. It’s not enough to know what your next action should be but also the step after that.

The next step is to know exactly what is required for each phase of flight. In instrument flying (especially for light single-engine aircraft) there are really only several configurations – climb, descent, cruise, and approach. You must be able to precisely configure the aircraft for each phase. Working with your instructor, develop a specific flow for each configuration and then practice transition between configurations. Instrument flying demands so much of your attention that you can’t afford to spend time fiddling with the aircraft controls. The configuration, pitch and power requirements MUST be pre-determined and known for the aircraft that we fly. Learn how to set and forget so you can devote your attention to other tasks.

Then you can concentrate on the approach tasks – getting the weather, briefing the approach, setting up the radios and navaids. These should be completed before reaching the initial approach fix. Slow down well before reaching the final approach fix to give yourself more time to prepare and stabilize the aircraft in the new configuration.

Once intercepting the final approach course, you can concentrate on monitoring your progress and quickly catching any deviations from track and altitude.

Set up your GPS so that you are displaying Track and Bearing, even on an ILS or VOR approach. As long as the track and bearing numbers are the same, you’re on course. You will be able to detect lateral deviations much quicker than watching for CDI displacement.”

Which tasks are you MOST likely to struggle with during an Instrument approach?

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