Altered Approach

To Approach or Not Approach

Intentionality and honesty in aviation is paramount in terms of pilot proficiency. A tale of flying simulated instrument approaches with a safety pilot. I’ve been letting my instrument proficiency lag for several months while I work on other flying goals. That’s what I’ve been doing. Uh, I forgot to mention this little detail to a guy with whom I’ve recently become acquainted. We flew together once on a VFR flight. Since, my schedule has precluded any other flying together until last Tuesday evening.

Splitting the Cost of Aviation

We had discussed our flying goals and they are fairly aligned. So, we talked about the possibility of splitting flying expenses where applicable. Finally, last Tuesday the available airplane was the local Piper Arrow. For us to split the expenses and each get value out of doing so, I suggested I do some simulated approaches and he act as safety pilot. He was up for it. However, in hindsight I now realize I didn’t make it clear that I was a bit rusty. In fact, I currently possess the exact attributes of holding currency while lacking proficiency. So, what of it?

Take off roll, Piper Arrow.
Take off roll!

We Do Aviation with Intentionality

Honesty with oneself comes into play here. I know I’m not proficient and have exactly no intentions of putting one of the single-engine, mildly IFR equipped airplanes in any IFR whatsoever while I’m holding the reins on my instrument-ness. I didn’t express all of this before our simulated instrument shindig and to be fair, he doesn’t really know me that well. To add further contrast, my safety pilot just recently acquired an instrument rating, plus he’s been regularly traveling to a nearby city and doing recurrent training in an advanced simulator. That means, while he’s been honing his precision, I’ve been slowly degrading. Now, I’ve been doing just enough to stay current and not lose touch with the process. However, I’m not going to win any awards for style and finesse. Again, I didn’t make this abundantly clear to him. It was after work; I was tired and focused on doing the task at hand — safely. In retrospect, I realize it would probably have been good to discuss what I had been doing — uh, not doing, so he’d have some context. Instead, we charged off into the first set of vectors with a healthy level of okay-ness. My first ILS was pretty… hmmm, dog crap. I salvaged a bit of my pride with a decent miss and hold as published. The following RNAV wasn’t too bad, relative to the first ILS. Finally, I brought it together on a second ILS that was much more in line — egregious pun there — with what is intended. You can see it in the video:

Pilot in Command – Proficiency and Honesty

About that currency versus proficiency business. I’m not going to go too far down that rabbit hole. Plenty of binary minded aviators have flogged that horse (why is it always a horse?) all over the internet space. I think the lynch pin of safety is in being honest with yourself about where you really are. For instance, someone suggested It might be time for an IPC. That’s fine, except I know that I can perform well enough flying the local and regional stuff on an IPC, which I have practically memorized. That doesn’t mean I am good to go flying 750 miles away to Dubuque, Iowa and after only one fuel stop and shoot an instrument approach at the end. I have done this very thing, by the way. The point being, not doing certain things and managing your proficiency, even if it means holding back in an area, is also part of being PIC. Perhaps, an almost hidden part and easily overlooked.

Transparency and Communication

I have a way of getting proficient that is far and above what is prescribed in the FAR’s. In fact, everybody does who plans on living to tell more lies about how good they are. This requires brutal honesty though — honesty with yourself about where you really are. Oh, and share that with your safety pilot so he’s not silently screaming in terror from the right seat.

General Aviation Instrument Rating

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