Weather Flying


Since March is a hub contest month and many of you will be flying more, challenge yourself with some instrument weather conditions.   On your flight sim, dial up some low ceilings and visibility.  For starters, I would recommend a 1000 foot ceiling (overcast) and 2 mile visibility.  Set the ceiling to be 1000 feet above ground level.  What makes this a professional exercise is NOT to use the autopilot. Keep your cursor off that AP button!   Fly the glideslope down until you have visual contact with approach lights, while trying to nail the localizer right down the middle.  You will break out of the clouds on about a 2.5 mile final, then the approach lights will come into view about 10 seconds later.  Once you have conquered that plateau, then dial down the ceiling to maybe 700 feet and 1 mile vis.  I know that many of you have flown instrument approaches down to minimums using the autopilot or even autoland.  Believe me, it is exciting and mentally rewarding to hand fly an instrument approach and nail it.  Remember, not so long ago all the airline pilots had to hand fly ILS or VOR or NDB approaches without an autopilot.

Pick an airport to fly to that has a nice long runway and strong approach lights.  If you are looking at an approach plate, choose the runway that has approach lights with an A rating.  Approach light systems are rated A thru A5, with A being massive rows of red and white lights and 15 rows of sequence strobe lights.   BWI’s ILS 10 has A approach lights but ILS 28 has a puny A5 approach light system.  (Ah, that may explain why you’ve had trouble finding the runway sometimes).  At MCI, ILS 1R has an A system but ILS 1L has a little A5 setup.    When you come into MCI from the North, ILS 19R has the A approach lights while ILS 19L has the skimpy A5 approach lights.  Our brothers out in Ontario have a great A approach light system on ILS 26L, while 26R may have a longer runway but it has a much smaller approach light A5 system.  ILS 8L and 8R both are A5s.   In conclusion, if you want to see a spectacular approach light system, fly into Tampa on a clear night and set up for runway 36L.  You will be dazzled.

Just be ready to come up with the power should you not see the runway or not be aligned enough to make a safe landing, once you arrive at the Decision Height.  Full power, get flaps up 2 notches at once, slight nose up,  and then gear up when you see a positive rate of climb.

Instrument flying in actual IFR meteorological conditions is what keeps me coming back again and again.  I like nothing better than setting up a 400 foot ceiling and ¾ mile vis and hand flying it.  The Dash 8-200, with its slower approach speed, is an especially good airplane to hone your IFR flying skills.   MetroAir management has said if you crash within 6 miles of an airport during March, your flight will count.   Now get out there and bore some holes in the clouds.

Dave Nichols   MCI Hub Manager