Small but significant step in my flight training occurred last night. I flew for 1.6 hours in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC), aka “actual IFR.”
I had a brief taste of it a few weeks ago, but last night I flew two precision approaches and a non-precision VOR-DME arc while in the soup. And I flew all three within spec, and nailed my landings. So a good night.
Today I savored the accomplishment by listening to the audio of the pilot who crashed at RDU last October, while flying IFR. The anxiety in his voice is apparent, and he’s clearly burdened by flying an unexpected approach while having lost his autopilot. So he’s struggling to aviate, navigate, and communicate at the same time. We’re trained to aviate, navigate, communicate in that order, but when you’re in the clouds, close to the ground, etc, it can be hard to keep those things separate.
I also read about another crash, a very recent one, involving a pilot struggling in IMC. This guy was picking up ice, and behind his airplane with the wrong localizer frequency dialed in.
This pilot was 69. The pilot who crashed at RDU was in his 70s. So aging private pilots should be cautious, and perhaps should ease out of IFR operations. Of course, they both could have been extremely fit. In any event, having done about 27 hours or so of simulated and actual instrument flying, I know the lonely feeling of keeping oneself alive only by reference to instruments.