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7/23/24    Home | Articles | Training | Instructor's Corner | Airplanes | Travelogues | PIREPS | For CFIs | ATPs | Pilot for Hire

By Ryan Ferguson

(cont'd from Page 1)

An Ounce of Prevention...

"... Single pilot IFR – captain, F/O, and flight attendant all in one."
The key is to have the cockpit organized for all the eventualities you might face in flight - including emergencies, unexpected holds, diverting to an alternate, lost comms… you name it. Taking time out of your instrument scan to find stuff in the cockpit should be kept to a minimum. Here are my tips for pre-organizing the cockpit, and being ready for all of the cockpit duties that come with single pilot IFR – captain, F/O, and flight attendant all in one.

1. Have a lot of pens and pencils within close reach.

You'll drop 'em; the pencil lead will break; the ink will run dry. I keep a few in the pilot side pouch, a couple on my clipboard, and more in my bag. If you drop one when copying a clearance, don't bother finding it, just grab the next one.

2. Use a normal clipboard for your cockpit 'desktop.'

This subject may cause considerable debate among IFR pilots. In my experience, kneeboards (the velcro strap variety) are worthless for a variety of reasons: They're too small. They can block full and free movement of the yoke in cramped cockpits. You can't move them around for a better writing angle. The list goes on.

Checklists and notes The good old-fashioned clipboard still reigns supreme as the most practical cockpit desktop.
Most instrument pilots I know have, at one point or another, gone through an evolutionary 'IFR Warrior' phase. You know what I'm talking about; tri-fold kneeboards, cool gadgets and gizmos, neato chart organizers, all of that stuff. Nearly all of them graduate to a simple, tried-and-true system: a normal 8x10ish clipboard, maybe with a couple of rubber bands or clips to keep various charts and bits of paper attached. That's it. Others use nothing more than a notepad. Personally, I prefer the clipboard so I can keep things attached. I'll keep the enroute chart, some scratch paper, and weather notes on the clipboard, and clip my approach plate to the yoke when I near my destination. I also like being able to sit the clipboard on the seat next to me when I don't need it. Side note: I also clip a small red keychain LED light to the clip on the clipboard. It is a perfect backup flashlight, and I frequently use it to illuminate switches under the yoke that are hard to see at night.

Of course, cockpit tools are a subjective decision. Use what you're most comfortable with, whether it's a clipboard, kneeboard, or otherwise.

3. Have the approach plates AND the STARs for your destination and alternates bookmarked for easy retrieval.

Review them enroute when you run out of interesting things to do. In the past I've been surprised by being assigned a STAR just a couple of minutes out from the intersection or navaid where the STAR begins - now I have them ready and waiting. If you're picking up your clearance at an intersection, especially if you're in or under class B airspace, you should probably be prepared for a DP. Check the Plains Two departure, below.

Plains Two Departure (Denver Int'l - DEN)
Plains Two - click for larger version
You've just picked up your clearance departing Boulder Municipal
and you've been assigned the Plains Two departure.
Are you prepared to fly it - right now?

It's better to be familiar with a DP, whether it's simple or complex, before you're in the air. The Plains Two departure out of Denver is not a particularly complex DP. But you'll spend a few moments twiddling knobs, reading the associated notes pertaining to your departure and transition, and generally have a much higher workload while maintaining your instrument scan. Want to read this while you're battling the weather?

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