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Today we discuss the War on VMC Into IMC. Why in the world are pilots still dying from flying into clouds? The clouds themselves aren’t dangerous, so why do they keep falling out the bottom in pieces? We’ll define the problem and solution.

Next, we talk about some common problems that face flight simmers when it comes to training, and how to fix it. The sum of the story? Real training equals a real flight simulation experience.

Useful Links

VMC on Wikipedia
IMC on Wikipedia
VMC into IMC Safety Seminar

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Transcript

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AviatorCast – Episode 23

**Chris: ** This is AviatorCast episode 23. IFR or bust.
Calling all aviators, pilots and aviation lovers, welcome to AviatorCast, where we close the gap between real aviation and flight simulation. Climb aboard, buckle up and prepare for takeoff. Here’s your host, Chris Palmer.
**Chris: ** Welcome, welcome, welcome aviators. You’ve landed at AviatorCast. My name is Chris Palmer. I am a qualified yet improving aviator, I’m looking for little gems of knowledge to help me be a better, safer, and less of an idiot pilot. As an aviator I’m my own worst enemy and biggest ally. Oh how I love it nonetheless. I’m the founder and owner of Angle of Attack, a flight simulation training company which is bringing you this podcast today. AviatorCast is a weekly podcast where we talk about the spirit of the aviator. We believe flying is an art form, one that we have to continually practice and master. This master is gained through a focus on continual learning, human factors, humility, and a commitment to excellence. In each episode of AviatorCast will have a real flight training and flight simulation topics or an interview with an inspirational and influential aviator. Our desire and mission is not only to create awesome aviators, but also bridge the gap between real aviation and flight simulation. Show notes, transcript, community discussion, and links for this episode can be found by simply going to AviatorCast.com.
So thank you for joining us on this, the 23rd episode of AviatorCast. We’re honored to have you here and we are so happy that we have so many followers of the show that come back week after week and look for AviatorCast in their iTunes feed or their Podcast feed or wherever you get your weekly dose of AviatorCast. Each and every week I start off with a comment which we take from iTunes, this is the primary source where people leave us reviews, this way people can find us easy and partake of this great community that we have.
So last week I actually called out some of the less well known countries that are out there and that are listening to this Podcast regularly and so I actually got a great one that came back from Gustavo. He is from Mexico and he gave us five stars. He wrote this big review in Spanish and he did an English translation so I’m going to give you the English translation because I just don’t know Spanish and I would slaughter it if I tried to say any of it. So he said, “AviatorCast delivers very useful and inspirational information, keeps the listener interested. Whether you are a professional pilot or a flight simulator enthusiast, this podcast is for you. Chris has created a podcast which fills the gap between a real flight and a flight simulation. Although I’ve been a fight sim user for many years, I’ve recently learned a lot in just the twenty two episodes. Chats with special guests are definitely top notch and interesting.” So all the way from Mexico, a very cool thanks Gustavo. It’s much appreciated, thanks for taking the time to get on iTunes and leave us a review. Much appreciated.
You too can leave us a review on iTunes if you like this show, we would really appreciate that and that would be absolutely great. Today, I don’t have a guest for you but I do have a few topics lined up. We’re going to talk about the war on VMC into IMC. You’ll understand what I mean by that here in a few moments and then we are going to talk about real training equal’s real stimulation. We’ll also talk about that in the flight simulation segment. That about does it, it’s pretty self explanatory once I actually get into this so let’s get into the flight training segment.

**And now the flight training segment. **

Chris: This is the war on VMC into IMC and I have been thinking about this specific subject a lot while I’ve been doing AviatorCast and I feel like this needs to be addressed head on and we need to talk about it. I definitely cannot cover this entire subject in just one episode of AviatorCast but I definitely wanted to get my opinion out on the table and also see what you listeners believe as well.
What is VMC into IMC? First of all, let’s define the two acronyms and then you’ll pretty much understand from there. VMC is visual meteorological conditions and IMC is instrument meteorological conditions. VMC would be very much like your VFR, it’s a day when the weather is pretty goods. You can see pretty much what’s in front of you, make reference to the ground. Then instrument meteorological conditions are kind of the opposite of that where you don’t have good enough vision reference to the ground. Maybe you’re just absolutely totally in the clouds and you have to give main visual reference to your instruments. Your instruments are the focus, which is VMC into IMC.
Now there is this accident cause where this is basically where a pilot flies from visual meteorological conditions into instrument meteorological conditions, that is a tongue twister so I’m going to say VCM into IMC. VCM into IMC is basically when a VFR pilot flies into IFR conditions, they get confused, they get turned around and they get upside down and they end up dying because of this. It’s one of the main causes and it happens year after year regardless of the new technology that is out there, regardless of the advancement in training. It’s one of those things that just are continuous to repeat itself year after years; this is just one of those accident causes that just doesn’t seem to go away.
That is why I want to declare war on VMC into IMC because I believe there is absolutely no reason for this to happen. There are so many things that we can do not only for ourselves but encourage it in the industry to make sure that we don’t have any more of these VMC into IMC accidents.
Now, is that completely realistic, admittedly probably not. There are going to be people out there that for one reason or another will get into a situation like this and that’s just the way it is but that doesn’t mean that we ourselves have to get into that situation and it doesn’t mean we have to believe that has to be the status quo. The reason why it’s such a problem is because you have someone who is used to using ground references only say a VFR private pilot for navigating and for knowing where the horizon is and to know how to fly the aircraft in such an environment and then they fly into an instrument environment where suddenly they are in a situation where they are supposed to rely on their instruments yet all of their body senses are lying to them. They rely on those bodies senses like they once had with their VFR.
Now when you are flying VFR and you have visual reference, you still get those body motions and spacial disorientation and the inner ear is lying to you and some other connectic senses as well. Basically when mixed with your visual representation of the environment you do just fine, you don’t get confused, you don’t get spacial disorientated and you are just fine in your environment. However when you get into IFR and suddenly all you have to rely on is your instruments, it gets really confusing and even when you are first starting out, everyone goes through a little bit of a learning process where they get confused and their body starts to lie to them and they feel like they should be turning left when their instruments say they need to be turning right, so on and so forth.
This is the problem because once, if you are totally used to flying just with visual references and you get into these instrument conditions then chances are you are going to rely on your senses. Rely completely on what you are used to which is, just the rawest of flying and you will end up upside down, going way too fast, stalling, all sorts of things. The accidents that come from stuff like this is, you hear from eyewitnesses that the airplane comes out of the bottom of the cloud in pieces. This is the kind of stuff that happens. It’s just the reality of it and I feel like I have some ways that we can potentially fight this, not only in ourselves but we can encourage this in the industry as a whole.
Again this is me declaring war on VMC into IMC. I really don’t think this need to be something that is around much longer, I we can really get rid of it. Some of the ways we can get rid of it is initially you go through your private pilot it’s smart to get more training on flying on instruments. I believe in the part 1, 41 program where you are required to do five hours, it may be more than that by now but you are required to do some hours of what’s called Hood time which is no visual references on the outside. All you do is, you have what’s called a view limiting devise so you can only see the instruments and you fly just on the instruments. You do that with your instructor and I think the five hours is actually a descent number and at least gives you an idea but I think that should be an absolute requirement for everyone that goes through private pilot. It doesn’t need to be an FAA regulated thing in order to force people to do it maybe, but I think it should be maybe one thing that is, as training pilots, we keep in mind.
We should be doing more instrument work as part of our private pilot because when you are in a practical situation as a private pilot you are flying from point A to point B, you have a family with you. You are going to face situations that are real; you are not going to choose your weather perfectly along the entire route. When you are a private pilot, you are training as a student pilot, you go out to the airport, it’s a great day and you go up and you fly in the local area. It’s all pretty simple but when you’re flying from point A to point B, you don’t know really what’s over the horizon a part from all the weather reports you have. You are inevitably going to run into circumstances where you face weather that was not reported.
It will happen; it’s just the way it goes. Now that doesn’t mean you absolutely have to fly into that weather but what happens when you take that route on what you know to be a VFR night, where everything is supposed to be clear and then you end up flying into a cloud at night. Could you see that cloud coming? Was it too dark for you to see that cloud coming? Suddenly you’re in the clouds and its night and you don’t have any visual reference, what are you going to do?
That’s why I think that as a bare, bare minimum we should be requiring more initial training on how to fly on instruments and that does not mean press on, that means basically turn around and get out of there from where you’re at. Again this is the bare minimum, turn around and get out of there. You need to be able to do that on your instruments and to be able to do that confidently and I know there are many stories out there of people doing this and feeling terrified in this situation but being really grateful they had enough training in order to learn to turn and get out of there and simulators help out a whole lot with this as well.
Another one, the next step; this is very simple and one that is used quite often these days and that is getting IFR rating. After you get your private pilot, the next step in general is for people to get an IFR rating. They will go and learn how to fly on instruments, they’ll do approaches and learn all of the necessary knowledge in order to do so. I would say if you pass your instrument rating, you are more or less safe for the most part. Now that does not mean that you still can’t get disoriented if you look back at the episode with Jason Sockalof, he was an NTSB intern in Florida and there was actually a high hour pilot that he talked about that ended up getting disorientated and ended up crashing. She had plenty of hours and plenty of experience and the IFR rating, all that sort of service stuff but still got disorientated but it can certainly help and it certainly takes you to the next level. That’s another thing we can do and another thing which is kind of recent is the IFR private pilot integrated program. Now this is something we talked about with Paul from Middle Tennessee University; he wrote the book ‘The Killing Zone’, and if you go and read that book by Doctor Paul Craig, it’ll convince you that IMC or rather VMC into IMC is really stupid. He helped create this IFR private pilot integrated program and basically what it does is it combines the two and it allows you to get your private pilot and instrument rating at the same time and it no doubts turns out pilots that are more able to handle those kind of situations where they would inadvertently fly into IMC.
That’s another thing and the last one I wanted to bring up is just more simulated flight time. One of the great things that simulators are good at is just flying instruments they’re really good at learning habits, of learning how to scan instruments. You are not going to get the heat and the noise and all those bumpy movements. you aren’t going to get that in a simulator but what you are going to get is very precise and accurate indication of what the aircraft is actually doing on the instrument panel and you’re going to see all of that, you’re going to be able to learn how to scan, you’re going to be able to learn how to do different turns and climbs and climbing turns and descending turns. Anything you really want to do in instrument conditions within the safe boundaries of aircraft operation can be learned really well with the simulator and you can use the simulator infinitely. You can use it as much as you need to get confident with that. That is definitely something you should have in your corner, definitely something we believe in here at Angle of Attack.
At the end of the day, there is zero reason again for this whole VMC into IMC, there is both the inadvertent VMC into IMC that we talked about but there is also the intentional. At the end of the day there is zero reason for all this to happen and what we should do is we should train ourselves to be better pilots, we should encourage those around us to be better and do better in this area as well. We should eliminate these VFR or VMC into IMC accidents, so that’s my sermon on this one. I just think this is one thing that really stands out as a sore spot in general aviation. It’s something that continues to happen regardless again of the great aircraft we have these days with the amazing avionics and all of these tools at our disposal and it’s still not changing. There’s obviously some sort of mind set that we need to change.
I hope that through all this, we can all become better aviators who we can reduce these accidents that we can see that it more and more people are getting proficient in flying on instruments and avoiding weather they are not qualified to fly in weather. I definitely think that by using one or more of these tools we can lessen those accidents and maybe perhaps someday even eliminate them entirely. That is my war on VMC into IMC and lets go over now to the flight simulation segment.

And now the flight simulation segment.

Chris: Now we’re in the flight simulation segment. I wanted to talk a little bit today about why real training equals a realistic simulation or a realistic simulator. Here’s the problem with real training with actually becoming a pilot, you are required to take certain steps in order to be qualified to fly certain types of aircraft, to even fly as a private pilot. Get your Instrument reading, commercial rating, CFI and then on the way up, you know and then you have to start working on time rating when you get qualified in specific airplanes as you get into some of the corporate or airlines or whatever it is. There are always training barriers for you to get to the next level for you to become a better pilot and then even when you are there, you are getting recurring training. Now the problem with flight simulation, is that training is optional, no one is requiring you to take training in order to get in your simulator and load up and fly. It is absolutely one hundred percent up to you to subject yourself to such things as training as learning as going through a education in order to do this thing. Now I realize that there is the demographic out there that just wants to get in the simulator and they want to have fun and that’s all they want to do but I personally think that the large amount of people like you listening today would like to get into the simulator and like to fly realistically like real pilots fly and they like to simulate not only the visual environment but the intellectual environment if you will. the environment which the pilots actually think of certain things in to certain things as there flying the aircraft from point A to point B, so that is problem number one, is training is optional in flight simulation and that brings this kind of barrier.
Now another thing that kind of happens is phenomenon in flight simulation is flights Simms start with the most complex aircraft then I know firsthand what this is like because when I was a teenage and I was flying simulator for the first time I too was of the camp that would load up the simulator and I would choose the 474 and I would try to take off and I had no idea what the controls meant, I had no idea of the indications meant, I really didn’t know the words controls and indications as it pertains to aircraft. I would just forward the throttle, which was maybe f4, full throttle and I would use the keyboard and I would take off and you know that sort of thing and then later on when I got a little more serious about it, I still like the eye candy really nice ad on aircrafts that you had to pay money to download and put in your simulator and I had zero training, no idea what I was doing and here I was trying to fly a 737. This is a very common thing amongst flight simmers is that we often start off with the most complex and that is a big, barrier especially when real pilots have to go through so much training and so much experience to get to the point where they are able to fly large airliner aircraft. It is really funny that we dive in and we try to figure it out. I realize that it’s part of the fun, it’s trying to get in there and figure it out but it’s also very unrealistic so that to my point.
Another reason or another thing that kind of happens is we spend all this money on add ons right, we want the most realistic simulator possible, we spent all this money to make sure that we have the best looking air course, we have the best airplanes, that we have the most realistically depicted whether we pay money to see animal walking around and birds flying through the air and artificial intelligence aircraft who have entire airline system kind of working and there is these AI aircraft landing and taking off and then we pay money for air traffic control and all sorts of stuff. There so many different add ons under the sun that do all that in the name of realism because we want our simulator to be realistic. Now how many people and it’s really not that many, how many people in the grand scheme of things, through all simulation spend any time and effort on training. You be really surprised at there are very very few people that actually take the training seriously and now I’m not talking about going out there and giving on YouTube and saying tutorials about how to start at this aircraft or how to land this aircraft or flying from here to there, you know the vast majority of YouTube videos are very misleading because they’re from people that do not know how to fly themselves. they are people that have a little ahead of the game of most flights simmers where they got in they figure the stuff out, they got the manuals, the kind of know this and that but man if I go up and load a random YouTube video , I can point out something almost right away that they done wrong and that’s not to mean I’m superior in anyway, that’s definitely not what I’m saying but what I am saying is that there is so much misinformation out there and there so little investment in the training side but there so much investment in the add on side and its really unfortunate because to the point of this, real training equals a realistic simulator. I’ll get to that in a few moments here.
Kind of hand and hand with the add ons is willful frames per second. It is all about how smooth can you get the simulator to be. I realize that’s important thing; let’s set up the simulator, lets tweak it and let’s get it looking great front and let’s get it set up and then let’s leave it alone. Let’s leave this thing alone and stop tweaking it and let’s going in actual fly and do something.
Those are the problems that kind of defines the problems again training is optional, flights simmers start with the most complex and then we spend money on add on and training. In other words, we invest in the software and not the actual experience we’re trying to get and then we focus on the frames per second too much and tweaking too much if you will.
So, my argument here is that if you have realistic training or real training from actual pilots then that equals a more realistic simulator experience. There’s this gap here that we’re trying to close ok? We have a lot of knowledge out there, I mean it’s everywhere, it’s not even here at Angle of Attack. We have just a small snippet of it here Angle of Attack and what we do but really there’s so much out there we can gather, good information, solid information real information and we can bring it over and you can invest your time and effort and energy and even money if you need to into taking that training so that you have a more realistic simulator. Now the interesting thing here is that you may pay fifty bucks for an add on airport, you may pay fifty bucks for an airplane, you may pay some for a weather program but the training you invest in whether what is simply time is knowledge you will always have for every type of airplane you fly, forever type of situation you are in aviation, building that knowledge is always going to be useful for you so it’s this core this nucleus that is so important yet is now malnourished if you will in the flight simulation community. If you were here today and you were listening to this podcast, you obviously someone that really cares about this as you are making an effort to learn something from something like AviatorCast just is one small example. There are a number of other great aviation podcasts out there that you could learn something from. There are many free resources so many different places where you can find this information now. That kind of all defines the problems, mostly I talked about the problems of the fairest solutions, is simply that flight simmers absolutely unequivantly need training.
If you want a realist simulator, you need real training that’s just the way it is. There is no two ways about it. you know for years it’s been this way where it’s just this gap between those who are real pilots and who are flight simulator pilots and you find that the people who end up using their simulator for their actual pilots licenses and instrumental tickets and things like that. They are people who are approach this simulator and in a much different way. They don’t approach it as a gaming platform, they don’t approach it as a thing where they can get in there and twiddle around and figure things out.
They approach it with a lot of respect and a lot of that admiration and they approach it with a lot of humility as well knowing this is a powerful piece of stuff, this isn’t just a first person shooter game that I’m playing, this is nothing like that, this isn’t just a matter of me practicing and getting better at shooting guys in the head, it’s nothing like that this is me having the learn body of knowledge in order to take full advantage of this simulation experience so again, going back to the solution, flight simmers absolutely need training where you find that is one hundred percent up to you. we have something’s here at Angle of Attack that you can take part in, aviator 90 its free, you may as well sign up and we have some other aircraft trainings as well for 737 triple 7 but that’s beside the point, if you took anything away from this and you didn’t even partake in what we have at Angle of Attack if you went out and you got a chorus of Kings school say a private pilot course and you learn the knowledge from that course to then fly realistically in a simulator I would be absolutely happy and so excited that you took things that seriously and you would find your experience, this environment that you can take apart in the simulator will become so much more rich when you understand what is happening in it. You will know and so confident that you can load up this simulator and you can basically fly anywhere in the world even if you have a piper cup, you can load up and you can know that I know how to plan from this airport to this airport and I can link everything all the way around the world.
That’s a very difficult proposition even for a very experience aviator but it’s possible you know, these things are possible if you the knowledge but if you just approach that and not know what you are doing you know you be eventually run out of gas and had to land on a road, something like that so that as realistic but again I don’t want to beat your guys up too much on this one and I think you get it but the problem is that the training is there and that it makes for a less realistic experience and this simple solution is that we all need training if we want to do this simulation thing realistically and especially if we want to use this simulator for actual flight we have to take everything very seriously in that sense and I think this is the biggest unidentified to this day for better flight simulation. And that’s all I have to say about that so I hope that you guys choose to have a more realistic simulator by getting real training from qualified people.
So that’s it guys a shorter episode today, we are going to have a another guest on next week, should be a good one. I have a couple of them lined up. We love to hear your thoughts on AviatorCast, you can truly shape this show and the topics we provide. Take a quick 2 minute survey at survery.AviatorCast.com. If you want to be a part of the ac community or leave a comment go to avaistorcast.com and join in or write me directly at me@AviatorCast.com.
Say you don’t want to miss an episode of ac no worries there, you can subscribe to email at avairtcast.com on iTunes, YouTube or Sound Cloud. ITunes is our primary source that is where podcast kind of originated from and where the vast majority of people still are. You may not be there but we love to get a review from you on iTunes if you enjoyed this show. so please do that if you don’t that anything else, please go and review us on iTunes again, just like I said last episode, we want to hear from you people that are kind of outside the core nucleus of the community you out lyres if you will. So we have several reviews from united states, Canada, we have a couple, United Kingdom, we need more from mainland Europe we need more from Asia, we need more from Africa and we need more from south America and central America, Asia, I’ve already said that, the middle east, Russia, Russia is part of Asia but we need reviews from all over if your listening to this show, if you enjoyed this show, please leave us a review because that review actually only shows up in your country’s iTunes it doesn’t show up in all iTunes so people will not hear about this podcast if you do not review us if you do not leave review for us but if you didn’t enjoy this that’s totally fine. Don’t leave a review but if you did enjoy this and you enjoy AviatorCast please do that would mean a lot to us.
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Many thanks also go out to Angle of Attack crew for all their hard work to make this absolutely possible and all the dudes outside AviatorCast. You and I can get together every week and we can enjoy each other’s company and we can learn a thing or two, we can hear from a guest, things like that.
There are a lot of people behind this scenes at Angle Of Attack that make that possible and last certainly not least, thank you so much for joining us on this episode of AviatorCast, we’re truly grateful to have you here part of our community and so engaged in this wonderful passion for flying things.
Until next time, throttle on!

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  • Les

    Thanks for a thought provoking episode.

    In your opinion, would you say that synthetic vision is capable of preventing spacial disorientation in IMC?

    With regards to simulator training, it is probably true that I have derived more enjoyment from AOA’s training than from actually flying.

    Les.

    • Great question, Les. If it was solely my opinion, I would say yes- SVT has helped with disorientation.

      But that is part of the problem, not really a solution. As we introduce TAA into the market, VFR pilots thought they could just use all the whizz bang features of the airplane to fly into things outside their capability and training level.

      Truth is, you should be a solid instrument pilot, regardless of the type of equipment. You should be able to do whatever you need to do, with whatever equipment you have.

      In other words, equipment should not make up for a lack of training.

  • Manfred

    I very much enjoyed the aviatorcast, thank you Chris! That is funny, the VMC into IMC subject just yesterday happend to me.

    The second last leg out of seven legs was higher up, clouds were broken and I could stay VMC all the time. I am not yet instrument rated in real life having only controlled VFR in my license.

    Autopilot was on and nothing to do for about 10 minutes so I went for something to drink, came back to the sim and was flying under a kind of VMC/IMC. Where did that come from? I was flying between two layers and the clouds below me were overcast with a base at 1500 feet, visibility down to less than 5 NM below the clouds and the airport was closed for VFR.

    Nevertheless, conditions for special VFR were still met – visibility more than 1.5 km, clear of clouds and altitude more than 500 feet above ground. But to descend I had to dive into the cloud layer and that is one of these “I can handle it” – dangerous situations.

    Here there was a typical sim decision to be made. Ignore it and approach the field with the risk of training something stupid or handle it like in real life?

    So I thought about my options:

    a) divert to an international airport some 20 minutes away with good VFR weather,

    b) cancel IFR and land (without ATC and simulating) special VFR,

    c) file inflight an IFR flight plan for a visual approach,

    d) declare an emergency, what can be anything in the sim I guess 🙂 or

    e) turn back, stay in VMC between the cloud layers and descend about 5 minutes later below the then again broken clouds.

    I choose c) and on final approach was asking the airport for directions to the airport, like in real life when asking for QDMs.

    On final I was pretty good set up for landing and only had to line up correctly but was still way to high. The A2A Cessna 172 is great for side slipping, so that helped a lot to touch down as wanted.

    How the weather changed from VFR to IFR and how special VFR conditions looked from the cockpit was captured in this very short old fashioned Super 8 style video:

    🙂 Manfred

    • Very cool! I’m glad you made the video. Exactly what I imagined. I think you made a good choice, and I like to see that you’re going through that decision making process.

      Great job!

  • Giovanni

    Dear Chris,
    thank you for sharing your thoughts on the role of training in FSim. I have to say I was a bit surprised and disappointed not to hear the natural follow-up, that is a SimTraining offered by AoA. Whatever happened to the One-on-One program that you launched few weeks (months?) ago? Is it still happening?

    Personally, I really enjoy your style and your content, in this and in all the other episodes where you are actually share your aviation-related knowledge. I would be really excited to partecipate to a well-structured “training program” on Flight Simulation, with real instructors. This would perfectly complement the very well done products for self-learning experience that you already offer (BTW, when is JetSet going to be ready?). I thought that the original One-on-One, with its couple of hours/week for a couple of weeks, was falling a bit short, but I completely understand that a wider activity would require hiring somebody (you could not possibly do everything, could you?).

    Anyway, this is just an idea, but I feel it would be really cool to have a real instructor following progress with ultra-realistic Flight Sim experience. Are you thinking about something like this?

    Many thanks!

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