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2/22/19    Home | Articles | Training | Instructor's Corner | Airplanes | Travelogues | PIREPS | For CFIs | ATPs | Pilot for Hire

By Ryan Ferguson

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9. Keep it simple.

This could be a corollary to what I wrote in #2 about the 'IFR Warrior Syndrome.' All of the gadgets you might have had your eye on that seemed like a good idea at the time holding pattern computers, ASI V-speed bugs, the yellow tape to mark your route on your charts, the tongue activated flashlight (yuck! Who thought of that?) all of this stuff tends to become more of a hindrance than a benefit in the cockpit. Learn how to figure out how to enter holds mentally. Use a highlighter to mark your route on your charts. Memorize the proper V-speeds. Use your handy-dandy Mag-lite like everyone else. Don't get caught up in the madness. Just buy what you need the essentials - and stick with what you know.

The exceptions? A handheld GPS so you have some way to navigate if you lose your electrical system in IMC. And always carry a charged handheld transceiver. These are devices that are actually well worth having when flying IFR. The other stuff just makes Sporty's more money.

10. Remember the 'R' in CRM.

Be resourceful. Make use of everything available to you in the cockpit to solve a problem. That may include the radio 'fess up and let ATC know you need help. They will always be glad to help in an emergency or distress situation, and frequently you won't even need to file any paperwork. You may have a non-pilot passenger who can help read off emergency checklists, switch radios back and forth for you (if you don't have two), and so on. Be ready for anything, and feel free to be creative in your problem-solving.

Why this is important

Clearly, NTSB reports show many cases in which a distracted pilot allowed a small problem to become a big one. CRM in IFR flying takes on a new meaning because it becomes a slice of your scan; that's why what you do to prepare on the ground can have a big impact on the overall stress level of your flight. Being totally prepared means you'll rarely be surprised, and that you won't have to break your scan for more than a split second or two.

"Rule #1 fly the airplane - has been, and will always remain the primary task in all phases and modes of flight."

Rule #1 fly the airplane - has been, and will always remain the primary task in all phases and modes of flight. When you're flying single pilot IFR, the slice of attention you have available to this task becomes ever smaller as you begin doing more things inside the cockpit. Try copying clearances without looking down as you write place the pencil in the location you want to start writing, then return your attention to the instruments as you write your shorthand copy. After a few practice attempts, you might be surprised at how easy this is to do (I was.) I also write all of my clearances on a single line. Let's say you're climbing out of Boulder Municipal southeast-bound and you're going to pick up your clearance in the air from approach:

ATC: "Cessna 12345, cleared to Bartlesville airport via the Plains Two departure, then as filed. Climb and maintain 9,000, expect 13,000 in ten minutes. Departure frequency 120.35, squawk 5341."

My shorthand clearance, on one line, looks like this:

"BVO PLAINS2 AF / CM 090 E 130 10 120.35 5341"

If I'm assigned a DP which I know is nothing more than radar vectors, I usually just leave it out but you get the idea. It's not hard to write that clearance on one line without looking. This is one of many examples of what I feel qualify as 'CRM' - making maximum use of the cockpit resources available to the pilot.

Summing it up

When I flew coast to coast and back in August of 2001, the primary lesson I learned from my flight was the true importance of CRM. I also realized that good CRM is as much a mindset as it is a practice. Unless you make it a point to always properly organize for each and every IFR flight, you're likely to fall out of the habit. It's the same reason you should self-brief your departure when you're flying alone; and the same reason to consider your emergency alternatives before advancing the throttle for takeoff. Being ready for anything and everything without hesitation: that, to me, is the successful result of good CRM.

I hope you found this article useful. Please submit any comments to me at ryan@fergworld.com.