Few moments in IFR inspire more drama than a missed approach or a go-around in IMC. We don't do these a lot, there's a lot happening, and you're close to the ground with a possibly complex procedure. How much do you remember about the details?
Models like the NAM, RAP, and HRRR are often considered the cutting edge of weather forecasting on supercomputers. Indeed, these are some of the best forecasting innovations of the past 15 years. They are a class of tools called dynamical models, designed to solve conditions in the entire atmosphere across a large forecast zone. Typically a three-dimensional grid is built with a granularity of several miles, and the equations of motion are solved at each gridpoint to provide us with temperature, pressure, moisture, and wind.
Perhaps it’s a bias from learning to fly in Colorado, but I never think of Pennsylvania as particularly mountainous. Yet mountain-dodging is what jumped to mind looking at the RNAV (GPS) Rwy 12 into Williamsport, PA (KIPT). Approach designers don’t toss in a 26-degree turn at the final approach fix for no reason, nor do they allow another 16-degree turn from the final approach course to the runway—unless they have to.
The first sign of trouble came when the pilot’s yoke-mounted GPS announced “External power lost. Switching to battery.” Before the pilot could wrap his head around that, the instrument panel went as dark as the inky night outside. Central Florida is thinly inhabited, offering few ground references. Fighting vertigo but keeping his cool, he knew that his Bonanza was trimmed for straight and level cruise. Using his GPS, he gingerly turned east toward the ocean with well-lit towns and cities hugging the shore, aiming at his home base, Boca Raton airport, KBCT. The engine droned along as if all was right with the world.
You are planning an IFR flight. It’s a route you have flown many times before. You always file direct and most of the time the cooperative controllers give it to you. So you again file direct, toss in a nearby Class B or C as an alternate, and calculate your fuel requirements for a flight to the alternate. You’ve met your obligations under 14 CFR §91.167 and 91.169. Or have you?
Having been very happily married for a long time, my wife and I partially attribute our success to recognizing each other’s pet peeves. Examples? She hates it when kitchen cabinets are left half-open or dining chairs aren’t pushed in, so I ensure that doesn’t happen. My home office may appear, well, unkempt, but I know where everything is, so she knows to leave her organizational tendencies at the door. These minor actions and expectations help maintain a healthy, happy household.
A good friend of mine is a physician and a pilot. (No, there isn’t a Bonanza in his hangar; he happily flies a Mooney Ovation.) I’ve always found him to be a very safety-conscious pilot. He gets an IPC every six months and does other periodic training. When he wanted to do something different, I suggested he get an airline transport pilot certificate with an airplane single-engine land rating. (ATP-SEL) “Why?” was his first reaction. “I don’t need it for the kind of flying I do.”