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IFR Risk Management

by Darren Smith, CFII/MEI
from IFR Checkride Reviewer, October 2004

IFR Navigation:   General Info Instrument Rating | Instrument Rating Lesson Plans | 7-day IFR Rating IFR Adventure | Instrument Ground School | Safety Pilot | Holding | IFR Risk | Trip Reports | Flight Profiles | Rating Requirements | After the IFR Rating | Checkride Reviewer | Visi-Hold | Are you ready?
We all fundamentally understand that whenever there is mountainous terrain, night IFR, or overwater flight, our risk increases dramatically.   This is especially true when the ceilings are solid IFR.  Safely completing your next flight requires you to have solid skills, the right equipment to do the job, and knowledge about the outcome of your flight.  Through your training, your instructor taught you procedures, profiles, navigation, and communication.  Most pilots have little exposure to risk management after achieving an IFR rating.  Immediately after you get your IFR ticket, build their skills with confidence building exercises detailed in the article After the IFR Rating.  After you’ve done that, how do you measure your skills against the statistics in the accident database? 

The following chart details the riskiest IFR activities and allows you to score a specific flight you are to undertake.  Use this in combination with the Personal Minimums Checklist.

100 points or More: Significant risk exists and you must overcome this risk with additional skill or by eliminating the riskiest elements of the flight. Consider a no-go decision.

60 to 99 points:  Your flight has serious risks that will require advanced skills to overcome.

25 to 59 points:  Moderate risk exists that require heightened attention to details, adherence to best practices, and solid skills to overcome.

25 points or less:  Elevated risk exists which require solid skills to overcome.

If significant risk is common to your IFR flight activity, seek additional training.  Being current is far different than being proficient.  If there is any doubt in your mind, get a CFII to help you.  Consider additional training programs such as the IFR Adventure to give you confidence in your skills.

Next:  After the IFR Rating  >>

"You won't spend much more than 10% of your time flying IMC but flying IFR is about flying with precision at all times."  
-- J. Mac McClellan, Writer, Flying

What You Said

Date = Tuesday, 21 December, 2010, 9:00 AM     Name = Patrick P
Comments = I think that some of the risk assessment points on here are overly high.  A lot of these sorts of things depends on your level of experience, as well as the equipment you're flying.  Also, if this is to be used for planning purposes, the first three (which talk about busting minimums) aren't really acceptable to begin with.

Also, I find "consider this a no-go" in risk analysis to be somewhat incomplete advice.  Flying is about risk management, and there are times when the risky way to go is about the only way to go.  You can still depart and safely complete many flights which score highly on a sheet like this, however, there are flights which score lowly that are unacceptable at times.

Then again, that's why I'm against this sort of thing in most incarnations.  Including "personal minimums."  That may be heresy, but the minimum is what's in the regs and what's on the plate.  Anything else is too early.  That doesn't mean that the newly minted instrument pilot should go blasting off zero-zero to fly to 1800RVR runways straight out of the gate.  But one should be capable enough to fly an approach to minimums in inclement weather, or one shouldn't be filing at all.  And if someone gets to their destination and for whatever reason is unable to fly the approach well enough, they should treat it as a highly critical situation and get the heck out of dodge.

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