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VFR Pilots Nightmare


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I'll start by saying I'm not sure if this fits under general discussion, incidents and accidents, weather or somewhere else.


What I will say is get yourselves a copy of Australian Flying January/February 2008 issue.


then sit down and read the article on page 54 titled Very Nearly History.


It is a spine tingling account of a Melbourne based Warrior pilot that flew into IMC on the 29th of July 2007 on his way back from Echuca around Kilmore Gap. There were 3 pob and he was only day VFR rated.


What ultimately saved him was that he confessed to having screwed up and he let ATC help him at the same time as remaining calm during the ordeal.


This is real and VERY close to home for some of us.


What brought it home for me is that I know one of the ATC people that assisted this chap on the day.


It makes compelling reading and I look forward to further discussions.







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yes i read this (thanks to my free copy from the oct comp). Hats off to the controller. what a terrifying ordeal. i just hope that in the future that ATC will not become a computer generated voice. for landing instructions -please push 1- this incident is one of the very very rare tails of survival, few make it. Total team effort. Lessons for all here, just got to convince those who regularly bend the rulz that they will sooner rather than later get a face full of dirt .


Also revelant....


was the article that has held my attention on page 82. "Backlash" by Paul Phelan. Titled, 'Safeskies: off target?'


A question asked. Of all Australian air transport accidents and serious incidents over the last twenty years, how many can you recall that weren't the result of either a random error of judgment, or a deliberate violation of the regulations, standard operating procedures, or plain common sense? the answer, "well.... none i guess"


when i read the article fully, the alarm bells started ringing, just how safe is flying on a commercial aircraft now, and how safe is it going to be in a few years when the limited safety managment systems being implemented now, catch up with aircrews of the near future. Will or when will Australia lose it's exellent safety record. Will the rapid expansion we are now experiencing breed future situations that aircrews are unprepared for.


Now take the same Question and replace "Australian air transport" with "recreational aviation". I think you will come up with the same answer and the same future outcome. how do we apply a good working safety managment system that will not only work for us now but will not breed a rash of future accidents due to poor implimentation or poor design that will only become apparrent when applied over time?


Are the rash of accidents that we are seeing now, are from the results of actions, regs, or training procedures (sms) implemented 10 or so years ago? Or just from the result of the actions of pilots who would do these things regardless of training and continuing education.





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Australian Flying article


Picked the Mag. up yesterday. It is probably the best article that I have read on this topic. The multiple-input format works well. Strongly recommend its reading widely. The reason why articles like this are rare is that it is difficult to write when you are dead. Nev..



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I grabbed a copy of the mag after seeing this thread and couldn't stop reading the article once I'd started. Obviously a situation we all hope we never get into.


It was good to get the ATC perspective on what happened too. One never really thinks about what's going through their head during an incident and how it affects them. They appear so calm over the radio and organised all of the secondary tasks so the pilot could concentrate on just flying the plane, but afterwards were quite affected by the whole ordeal. Without their cool heads it would have been oh so different. Truly professionals!!!!





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I did the same; must have sold a few extra copies of current issue of AF!


The thing that was interesting to me was the differences in the versions of the situation as it unfolded, given by the directly and indirectly involved parties. A credit to the compiler of the article that it was presented factually - and just shows how we can change our interpretation of an event, once we start to reflect on it.. It must make accident investigation very difficult.



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What would be interesting to find out now is what the repercussions were for the pilot of this flight.


I think from a safety aspect CASA should just say you've learnt your lesson, made it public for others to learn from and leave it at that.


If they were to make an example of him, all the good that has been done by publishing this story potentially will be undone.


I certainly feel at the moment that if I were to get into trouble, I'd have no hesitation in calling for help.


However, should the threat of criminal charges be possible, I may well think differently.


10 points to the Pilot for allowing the story to be published regardless of the consequences...;)







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Without haivng read the article, I recall that one of our forum contributors had a similar incident where he entered IMC on a VFR licence with from memory 6 pob. Perhaps he can fill us in? (wink wink) Hopefully he reads this.


From memory ATC helped out and he continued to climb until clear.



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Yes Brent it was me.


Herewith again the tale first published in Australian Flying March 2000.


One Monday in March some years back, saw me pacing the early morning dew at Bathurst airfield. Our driver, desperate to get back to open his business was looking at his watch as often as was the passenger who had a shop to open in Melbourne. Neither of them understood nor wanted to understand the problem. They could see that the field was clear of storm, gale and fog so why the delay?


Days earlier on the outward journey storms over Katoomba had forced us to abandon the rented Cessna 210 at Bathurst and finish the journey by taxi.


When making plans for a family reunion and celebration weekend in the Blue Mountains this level of stress, uncertainty and delay was not anticipated. On the morning that we were all due back at our various workplaces everyone was stuck at Bathurst while I struggled with the go/no go decision.


So much for a relaxed weekend and for my reputation as someone who gets thing done - on time and on budget. My credibility was eroding fast, while the cloud, with tantalizing slowness , was just barely eroding from the ridge tops.


To balance the briefing office’s gloomy predictions, I obtained an actual weather from and aircraft at Canowindra. Since he was reporting CAVOK below high cloud I decided to take off and check the cloud/ridge interface from up close.


The passengers were loaded and advised that we would be returning to Bathurst if a clear path could not be found.


Viewed from the sky the gaps were larger; the horizontal visibility was definitely an improvement on the slant view from the ground. Not good, but not too bad; & I did have that actual report. Another decision made and VH-BEV rolled onto a track up the most open valley.


There was plenty of width between fingers of wispy cloud that barely reached down to the peaks. Straight ahead of us was a tunnel large enough to turn the QE2 . All I had to do was pop through that tunnel and then it would be smooth flying all the way home. One small obstacle to clear before I would get everyone home with all obligations and promises honoured.


Minutes later those wispy fingers became hands, hands gathering the land up into the cloud. The valley was narrower, and all ahead was grayish white down to the green of the trees. Or was it? Surely it was just another slant line illusion? And if only we were low enough it would again reveal that clear path up the valley. It had after, been clearly visible mere seconds ago.


Gently carefully, I eased the first millimeter off the throttle,. The pasture was now streaming past. A view abruptly punctured by a clump of trees, the mates of whom, I suddenly realized were a bout to obliterate two families.


It was time to stop laying the odds and to seriously aviate. Throttle forward, wings level, ease the trim towards climb. A wisp of mist swiped at the windshield as I checked the power. Then the view completely disappeared. The abruptness was a shock, as was the glaring white blackness.


Glaring white blackness?


That’s the very question that I asked myself. But I saw what I saw.


The engine note changed in step with my reflex snap back on the column and with the passengers’ silence. They were not pilots, but had been oft regaled by pilots’ stories. Do pilots ever tell stories that are not about being disoriented in cloud, stall and spin or other disasters?


I forced myself to focus on the AH. It showed winds level and the nose slightly up – we were climbing straight ahead.


What next?


Something about scan?


Yes Attitude, altitude, speed and direction.


Attitude? Climbing straight ahead, wings level – good.


Altitude? 4500 and climbing at 400 fpm.


Speeds MP? and airspeed OK for climb.


Direction? What direction ? I’d been chasing valleys wherever they led. All sense of direction was well lost.


Fossicking for the charts I remembered Scan!


Scan scan, scan., forget the charts.


I looked out to where there was no wing to see, merely water streaming along the Perspex. Beyond that , nothing, absolutely nothing; just more of that glaring white blackness.


Attitude, altitude, speed and direction


Attitude, altitude, speed and direction


Attitude, altitude, speed and direction


Good training , earlier ignored, asserted itself. The memorized litanies returned. Aviate, communicate, navigate.


Communicate! My God, communicate!. I had so far avoided the rocks in those clouds but what about speeding aluminium rocks?


“Canberra this is Cessna Bravo Echo Victor , VFR to the south of Bathurst seven POB. Passing through seven thousand VFR in solid cloud. Request assistanceâ€Â.


“ Bravo Echo Victor , say again VFR in cloud?â€Â


“Affirmative VFR in cloudâ€Â


“ Bravo Echo Victor, stand by….. Bravo Echo Victor remain this frequency and keep wings level on AHâ€Â.


“ Bravo Echo Victorâ€Â


†Bravo Echo Victor say again POB? And do you have an instrument rating?â€Â


“Seven POB, no ratingâ€Â


“ Bravo Echo Victor I am clearing this frequency of all other traffic.


Maintain wings level 0on AH. I repeat keep wings level on AHâ€Â


“ Bravo Echo Victorâ€Â.


“ Bravo Echo Victor keepings wings level can you advise your present positionâ€Â.


“Maintaining heading two zero zero leaving 8500 feet on climb.


location unsureâ€Â.


“ Bravo Echo Victor, concentrate on wings level on AH. If possible maintain climb. We do not have you on radar at this timeâ€Â.


“ Bravo Echo Victorâ€Â


Attitude, altitude, speed and direction


Attitude, altitude, speed and direction


Attitude, altitude, speed and direction


A tense 40 mins after we had entered cloud and as suddenly as we had originally been engulfed, we were spat out into brilliant light. Clear unblemished blue above and a solid froth of white below.


“Canberra, Bravo Echo Victor is maintaining 11200 on top of solid cloud, heading one eight zeroâ€Â.


“ Bravo Echo Victor, keep wings level on AH and, if possible, maintain heading and remain clear of cloudâ€Â.


‘ Bravo Echo Victorâ€Â


“ Bravo Echo Victor your you are radar identified. Can you come onto a heading of one five eight, remaining clear of cloud?â€Â


“One five eight Bravo Echo Victorâ€Â.


“Canberra Bravo Echo Victor is visual, ten thousand over Lake Georgeâ€Â.


“ Bravo Echo Victor, remaining clear of cloud, descend to 5500. At 5500 contact Canberra approach on 124.5


“124.5 Bravo Echo Victorâ€Â


What else to say?


No one factor created the situation. Just the usual story of a cascading sequence of small deviations from best practice. Thankfully good training eventually did take over. On the ground, an excellent service shepherded two vulnerable babies and their families to safety.


Thak-you is so little to offer for such a big service. So little in exchange for seven lives. But thank you ATC was all that I had to offer then and all that I have today.


Calm, assured and professional guidance brought us safely home. That and the instructor who in supervising my transfer from a New Zealand PPL to an Australian one had insisted on a couple of hours of real IFR training in IFR conditions.


Today both of those infants have children of their own . Children who, we can only hope will grow up p forever protected from that subtle cascading sequence of small deviations. That killer cascade that converts people into statistics.


And, I wonder, VH-BEV where are you today?.



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Sorry for the few typos,


I'm not all the great as a copy typist and did not have an electronic copy of the tale handy.


A couple of points from that story.


The only consequence from that event involving the authorities was a phone call some months later requesting my version of events and asking how I thought that the ATC could have improved their assistance to a pilot in trouble.


I was quite amazed at the time by the pilot's bar room talk. The general impression that I got was that most Australian private pilots finding themselves in a similar situation would have maintained radio silence, fearing being slapped with the dreaded "225" or whatever name the document had.


Whereas the culture in New Zealand from where I had just come was one of 'ATC is there to assist . Talk to them and talk early'.


This was in the early 1970s and one can only hope that training of recent years has created in Australian pilots a similar attitude of using every aid at your disposal and that ATC are one of our most valuable aids.


That and having the discipline and nouse not to get into the situation in the first place.


David Hill



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I ammend my earlier post.


15 outa 10 to the gentleman who featured in the VFR story in FA Magazine.


Top marks also for not only allowing it to be published, but also to actively seek the input of passengers and the living legends at Melbourne Centre.


Top marks to AirServices Australia for allowing the ATC officer to be able to speak publicly on the incident.


What I would now like to see is CASA's magazine reprint the story, so that others in the aviation community will read it, and in turn see the level of cooperation that goes on to educate us pilots... and keep us from being the statistic at the end of 178 seconds.


What I would not like to have happen is for the pilot concerned receive a letter from CASA asking "just cause".


Like others have said, the refreshing thing about this incident is that it was written by those involved, NOT an ATSB crash inspector.


It also hammers home those words spoken during the CASA conference at Shepparton, on this very same issue.... call ATC for help, and do it early. They are there to help.





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Guest airsick

Firstly, I agree with the comments above. It is great to be able to hear and learn from the experiences of others. It will surely benefit others and hopefully allow them to avoid similar situations. But...


I said in another post on a similar note that we, as pilots, should not judge. We should listen and learn from others but not pretend for a moment that we are the appropriate authorities to meter out punishment. I applaud those who tell their stories and they are probably not likely to risk reliving those scary experiences. I do wonder though about some of the younger, braver (dumber?) pilots out there.


If they hear that no punishment is handed out and ATC is there to 'rescue' them by guiding them out of trouble then are they likely to push the boundaries? It presents a problem of moral hazard - someone else will take care of my woes.


I for one have flown in IMC (with appropriately qualified pilots) and am aware of the dangers. But does having ATC there to help with no recourse whatsoever provide a little too much temptation for some?


Just some raw, not very well thought out thoughts. :)



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†Bravo Echo Victor say again POB? And do you have an instrument rating?â€Â

“Seven POB, no ratingâ€Â

Thanks for relating that story Hihosland.


More living proof that if you seek help you can survive if directions are followed.


Just as a point, I noticed that you had 7 POB. I'm under the impression that operating on a PPL you can only carry 6 POB including the pilot.


I've brought this up as a learning opportunity only.







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These stories need to be read by those new to Aviation, as well as those that have been around for a while.


The poor chap last week around the WVA/SY area might have decided no to go instead of ending up in a bad situation.


Fortunately he called ATC and got help and a safe outcome.


But why not learn the lesson from others experience instead of 're-inventing the wheel' so to speak!



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I've only had the one cloud situation about 6 years ago where I had to ask for help. My GPS had stopped working and I ended up not knowing exactly where I was. Whilst I knew pretty much where I was I was worried about infringing airspace. Cloud was only at about 1,000ft AGO with some hills around. I can't recall what I said to them but I certainly got their attention. I think they thought I was in cloud at the time which wasn't the case, it's just that I couldn't see long distance. More than anything it was embarrasing because they called me probably every minute to make sure I was ok.



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As ATC we probably appear to 'over-react' at times - and there are historical reasons it may appear that way.


There are still plenty of ATC with flying experience, but not as common as it once was. Those with some experience will know that some pilots will be under a lot of stress of simply high workload, and sometimes too many questions doesn't help.


Depending on what the situation is, often for us having a location - ideally on radar - helps us help the pilot. As a pilot knowing where you are is very reassuring! One thing to remember is that altitude gives better VHF as well as radar range. In remote areas consider knowing what the higher level frequencies are, as there are regularly overflying jets that can relay over long distances to ATC, as well as get weather appreciations from other aircraft or ground observers.


Basically it opens up a huge amount of resources to help you make the right decisions or get out of a bad situation.


Unless someone has been groslly negligent, I have never heard of these things turning in to a 'witch hunt' after the event. If you are in trouble, even just need a bit of help, worrying about any consequences with the 'authorities' shouldn't come in deciding whether to speak up.


As an example sometimes if contemplating VFR on top (lets say in a twin engine) you want to know actual reports of weather at your destination - a quick call to ATC to find out before going on top can let you make your decision with a lot more confidence.




The reason I mention twin engine on top is that I no longer contemplate VFR on top unless over a very short distance - i.e. gliding range to VMC. Legally it can be fine if you meet the AIP requirments for NAV etc, however it is in my opinion of the same risk as VFR at night - or a lot worse if aircraft is not adequately Instrument equipped or pilot experienced in flying IMC.



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A great story, well told hihosland. As I suspected, no recriminations.


I just wonder about the few idiots with RAAus certificates who tell me they can fly in cloud. That is without an AH or DG and no training.


No doubt there are a few who do kill themselves and probably more who scare themselves. The little bit of instrument training I have done was just enough to convince me that I cant do it.


As hihosland found those clouds can build faster than we can fly, and I know I like to be well below them, not just beneath where I can't see past the low bits.



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Guest pelorus32

I've just read this article. This is very close to home for me. I flew from Shepparton to Wangaratta that day for lunch in a Tecnam. We accompanied another 10 or so a/c from Shepparton. When we came to return the weather had begun to deteriorate and my daughter and I ended up diverting from a direct course and coming home underneath cloud and rain. The reason for the divert was that conditions were slightly better and there was no high terrain anywhere near track. Ground level on track was 350 - 400 feet AMSL. Cloud base was 1300 feet AMSL with some "lumps" lower. The rain was quite heavy at times. We landed at Shepparton at about 3:00pm. The conditions in the circuit were rain, with cloud base at 1000 ft AMSL. YSHT elev = 375 feet.


The weather had come in from the west and persisted for some hours thereafter.


I guess from reading the article and from my experiences on the day my question is: where in the article is the pilot's analysis of his decision making process and where is his judgement about the escapade?


Yes ATC did a wonderful job, yes the pilot triumphed against the odds. However the key message is missing: Most of the rest of us will be in a death spiral within 178 seconds. Neither ATC nor anyone else is important once that happens - you are dead. The thing that reliably keeps you alive in that situation is to never get there in the first place. That's the part of the story that is missing: the analysis of how that could have been avoided.


And lest anyone feels I am being holier than thou: I can tell you that nothing is further from the truth. I sat there thinking "there but for the grace of God go I" as I read it.







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I'm interested in this 'death spiral' scenario.. That is, is an Artificial Horizon likely to be helpful at all for a VFR pilot that inadvertantly or unavoidably ends up in cloud?


We are told that the senses are confused once we loose sight of the real horizon reference point - and we will likely ignore the A-H. Is this actual? Are there people out there (on this Forum) who have had the experience?







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Guest airsick

Doing my PPL they put me into unusual attitudes to bring on these sensations and it is real. The most I have noticed it though is under continuous flight under the hood.


I did a flight where I went under the hood pretty much straight after takeoff and flew for around an hour after that on instruments. I found that once at the top of climb it became quite bizarre. I backed off the power setting and it felt like I was descending so I wanted to pull up. Likewise when changing course. Levelling out the wings made it feel like you were turning in the opposite direction. You really have to fight the temptation to correct the 'feeling' and just go with the instruments.


I'd imagine the IFR guys get used to it but it was certainly disconcerting for me. It really highlighted for me what the instructor was trying to tell me - when you lose visibility trust the instruments.



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I don't know if this really works but i found that if i was starting to follow feelings instead of the instruments i'd shake my head around to try and upset my middle ear.


seemed to help.





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