01 November 2013

Can you get an Instrument Rating while making major errors flying ILS?

tsb 2013-11-01 14-16-24

It is sad that we lost two local pilots in late 2011 to an Instrument Landing System approach to Runway 07 at CYOW. We feel sorry for their families’ loss. To read the TSB’s accident report check:


The TSB put a lot of blame on the pilots for making the decision to fly in bad weather, we pilots call it “get-home-itis”. Poor judgement was clearly a big part of the problem in this accident. Nonetheless I wonder how one keeps their instrument rating when they seem to make major errors flying an ILS on most of their IFR flight tests? If flying an ILS, generally considered the safest instrument approach, leads to major errors how would this pilot have done flying a non-precision NDB approach?

Questions going through my mind after reading the TSB accident report include:

  1. What role does flight training play in these kinds of accidents? Does the TSB consider flight training as a factor in any accident? Was it a factor here? It seems the pilot was weak on the basics of flying on instruments.
  2. What role does the IFR flight test play? If rated a pass 1.6 months earlier shouldn’t one still be current? Should a pilot be issued an Instrument rating if unable to fly an ILS without major errors in performance?
  3. What equipment was available to the pilot? Was there an autopilot, if so was it used? What type of instruments were available, e.g. HSI, geo-referenced GPS moving map, etc.?
  4. What coordination did the pilot and his pilot passenger establish before flying together? Did the non-flying pilot perform any duties, call outs, etc.? Should coordination be a topic for times when two pilots are flying together? Did the owners of the aircraft establish some form of Standard Operating Procedures?
  5. Should one need to fly in actual Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC) to get an IFR rating? Do simulators and hoods really make safe IFR pilots? At least during training should pilots log some time in IMC before taking the test?
  6. Would re-writing the INRAT exam in November really made any difference? What is the point of the TSB raising the question?
  7. Was the lack of currency at night a major factor?
  8. Perhaps the TSB does not need to examine these questions for a single accident, but it seems simplistic to ignore systemic influences in this accident.

Just for clarity, I am not an instrument rated nor am I flight instructor and therefore write with little authority on this topic.


JohnQPublic said...

While I have neither a lot of hours IFR nor recent time, I did earn my instrument rating and flew in our Cardinal for several years in IFR in both the United states and Canada.

I have no comment on this accident in particular - I am looking forward to the presentation very much and may have an opinion after that.

I do have some thoughts on General Aviation IFR though - maybe some of you will agree with me:

- It seems to me that the IFR limits for GA pilots are too low - for the very limited practice hours we get in IMC. My personal limits I set much higher than 200 and a 1/2 - especially without an instructor on board.

- The British had a rating - which was the IMC rating (don't know if it still exists) - it allowed pilots to fly in IMC between VFR airports - that seems a much better compromise than giving a weekend pilot - the full class 1 limits.

- The IFR training I had, concentrated way too much on approaches - which I got down quite well (my highest test score was about 3 points off perfect on a ride). However when I tried landings in IMC on GA-length runways on Non precision approaches I found it very difficult to stop in time. I never was trained to do real IMC landings and with Gavin one time - I almost blew the landing - I recall he told me I was lucky he did not get to rate that on the ride - or I would have failed. Doing missed approach after missed approach under the hood and then circling for a VFR landing did nothing for my capability to actually land IFR.

- My last point is that there was nothing in the training that required me to actually fly in IMC before the ride. Consequently the first time I tried it I was without the instructor. Not a good thing.

Anyway some will disagree and definitely some use the IFR rating a lot - and are very safe pilots. I just think that the training and rating limits need to be adjusted to what most of us actually need and want to do with the rating.

Al said...

I think the obvious answer to the question should be no.

The real issue I believe is what you "as PIC" believe is required to remain current. A briefing and instruction on spatial disorientation may be more useful than 6 simulated approaches or 6 hours in 6 months.

Can currency even be a function of age, hours, skill, or IMC hours? Or should you just raise your personal limits when filing IFR after a long absence? It is not an easy question to answer.

There is a good report worth reading about controlled flight into terrain (cfit) here:


I also read another accident report that indicated spatial disorientation causes many night take off accidents when you do not have a clear horizon. One accident was with two very experienced IFR pilots at the controls. The reasons for CFIT are much more complicated than the few factors I have listed above and they can't be eliminated with more prescriptive regulations.