FIC COURSE – Ex 19 Operational Instrument Flying – Weather Avoidance

This is a requested briefing for flying instructor candidates on the FI course but PPL’s may benefit from the content as I know that most PPLs will have not received much instruction in this area. In fact this is another one of those exercises that show up the poor flying schools and instructors.

All my briefings are work in progress and are subject to change. The learning process never ceases, except for those featured at the end of this briefing-RIP

Ex 19 Operational Instrument Flying (180° Course Reversal in simulated IMC)

Aim – To teach a 180 degree course reversal manoeuvre in simulated adverse weather leading in preparation for a return to the original airfield or an enroute diversionary airfield.

Section 3 (f) of the PPL Skill Test requires basic instrument flying (180 turn in simulated IMC)

cessna crashes on hillAn early turn around before entering poor weather is usually the best option for the PPL

Aircraft Management Considerations

It should be noted that this exercise is based around the PPL Skil Test requirement  of turning through 180 degress in simulated IMC, however this can introduce the student to a dangerous misconception, as the real main aim of this exercise is to get the student to understand the importance of making an early turn before a visibility reduction or a lowering of the cloud base. This ‘turn around diversion’ is similar in a way to the go around, it is an essential tool that students need to keep them safe.

Good decision making skills start with good attitude. Good attitude can be encouraged by the instructor and is an important part of the learning process. If you show a cavalier approach to flight preparation and bad weather flying, it’s very likely your student will try and emulate you.

Situational Awareness– Current & Forecast Wx awareness – Pre Flight Preperation – Mental Map, Awareness of en route alternates and their range and bearing – Awareness of LARS or ATC units that can help – Safe Altitude awareness and discipline, Early awareness of changing weather and visibility.

Threats – Unfamiliar Area & Features, Showers – Visibility reduction – Lowering cloud base – Local weather effects, EG coastal and high ground – High ground – Obstructions – Airframe icing – Engine induction icing – Controlled Airspace.

Errors– Failure to comprehensively plan the route and understand the threats that the route poses – Correctly interpret wx information, Steering errors, Navigational errors – Failing to apply uncertain or lost procedure – Failure to take early diversionary action – Allowing Mission Fixation ( often “get home itus”) to influence decision making. Failure to use the radio to request help. (Pan Call)

CRM – Use of ATC- Charts selection- Back up radio aids- use of all equipment on board aircraft including radio and lights.

ADM – Early decision essential. Always ensure your decision takes the aircraft to the safest place.

Air Exercise Revision


Miniature presentation

Fine trimming essential

Small pressures essential

Believe instruments (induce and teach dangers of disorientation)

Student should have at least covered 1 hour Instrument flying training before this exercise. (This could be given as a ‘part exercise’ during a cross country. Eg one leg on instruments and then say to student,”Where are we? )

Introduce 180 turn Back, Compass Errors. Lost & Uncertain Procedure, Diversion on suitable dual cross country. 60 degree avoidance turns to manoeuvre around showers.

TEM SA ADM CRM Teaching Points

W-H-A-T CHECKS after new turning point- W for WEATHER (look to horizon)

EARLY DECISION ESSENTIAL – Teach early decisions and why! Options and safety reduce the closer you get to worsening weather.

Teach the importance of understanding that the harmless looking cloud ahead may well contain A HARD CENTRE!

Consider teaching this in poor weather (within safe reason in an improving situation) if you can, in an area you know very well with high ground to show how you can get uncomfortably close to high ground especially if you cannot see clearly. Show also how familiar features can look totally different if cloaked in mist or cloud. Consider combining this with the low flying exercise Ex 16.

EG low flying cross country leg- 180 turnback simulated IMC turnback then low flying exercise to a precautionary landing back at base or nominated airfield,

Explain how you can be caught in a ‘funnel’ and the turn back could take you into high ground on either side of track if the visibility is poor. The turn back should always be AWAY from the highest obstruction with wind and ground speed being taken into consideration. Students should be taught bearing and distance of all relevant obstructions within 25nm of the base airfield this also teaches range assessment (can start on first lesson)

  1. Assess situation – SITUATIONAL AWARENESS

Which is the best way to turn? High Ground/Obstacle consideration,always turn in the safest direction but consider the effect of the wind

Safety Altitude-What is the MSA?. Is a climb to the SA safer than turn especially if the turn back decision has been delayed. However if student becomes IMC he will probably need to be recovered by ATC, so understanding of 121.5 triangulation, QDM and even a radar cloud break or an SRA procedure needs to be known as well as the ability to fly in IMC. The PPL doesnt really call for a student to be taught comprehensively how to fly in IMC, so for an instructor it poses a difficult problem. If you give the student the option of climbing to SA how are they going to get back down? I try and teach setting up a 3 degree descent and how to adjust ROD and fly a simple simulated SRA because the last ditch recovery may be an ATC SRA but you must always emphasise that the early turn back before becoming IMC is the most important action.

2 Be aware that the turn back may also put the student in an ‘UNCERTAIN OF POSITION’ situation parallel to track, if this is the case, CALL FOR HELP. Teaching students to call when uncertain of anything is part of the process of teaching good CRM. ATC are paid to be part of your resource team-use them! An early call makes the problem easier to solve for all concerned! The correct call is a PAN call and all student solo flying initial calls must (CAP413) be preceded by the phrase, ‘STUDENT’.

3 . Call –

nearest ATC unit (practice).

121.5 (practice)

QDM (practice) build this into the  nav exercise when teaching compass errors, diversion and uncertain & lost procedure. also consider teaching a map reading exercise on a north/south heading using only the magnetic compass.

There is a tendency to ‘gloss over this’ exercise which is disappointing as this is not a ‘tick in the box’ exercise it’s an important part of TEM that gives a student the essential tools to deal with a situation that needs early correct decision making. Again, and I make no excuses for labouring this point many times, a good decision can only be made from a sound knowledge base. A sound knowledge base can only be developed by dedicated instruction and instructors. Telling students to “go and read the chapter in the book” is not dedicated instruction, it’s the lazy instructors approach and shows poor duty of care. If more flying instructors spent poor weather days helping students rather than sitting around engaged in idle chatter they would turn out better more informed students.

Don’t forget CRM- teach students the option of radioing ahead to see what the weather is doing at destination.

Teach that turn radius increases with increase with increases in speed and that groundspeed is very important when turning.


Its very easy to get caught out with showers. For example, you leave Wellesbourne for Halfpenny Green and you see showers ahead, no problem you turn back and decide to land back at Wellesbourne but now Wellesbourne is covered in showers what do you do?


Try and fly through the shower and land back at Wellesbourne

Divert to your enroute diversion

Hold and wait for the shower to pass

Go around the shower

Divert to Birmingham with radar assistance

Land in a field

For a student to be able to consider the above options they need to have been explained or taught.

60 Degree Shower  Avoidance

Turn right 60 degree away from track to go around shower, start watch, when clear turn opposite way 120 degrees for same time. Continue on original track delaying time enroute by one leg time in minutes. Do not send PPL students on solo cross countries if there are showers forecast and this will not need to happen!

LEARN BY THE MISTAKES OF OTHERS – These pilots found out the hard way that some clouds can have fatal hard centres.

Bob Jones was responsible for the formation of Welshpool Airport and was a very experienced PPL. On the day of this fatal accident in the circuit at Welshpool his role appears to have been as a safety pilot in the right hand seat. Bob knew the area like the back of his hand and had even flown from the Long Mountain site where the aircraft crashed. The commander was a retired airline pilot and current flying instructor, he too knew Welshpool well.

This is an accident that should not have happened, in fact I still cannot believe that two very, very experienced pilots, with in excess of 28,000 hours, allowed the aircraft to momentarily fly into an area of cloud in the circuit that both of them knew was in an area of high ground. It just shows that if you break the rules in flying, even just for a few seconds, the results can be catastrophic.

Graham Hill was a world champion Formula 1 racing driver possessing skills that very few people have but he broke a few simple rules and rather than divert to an alternate airfield he chose to make an illegal approach to an unsuitable airfield. A flawed decision based on an attempt to take a chance rather than fly the aircraft to the safest place cost him and five other people their lives.

Vic Wilson was an experienced PPL but had never received any instrument flying training and boasted to me once that he didn’t need any! Vic wasn’t as good as he thought he was and in a heated discussion I had cautioned him against flying in IMC without training but he dismissed my concerns. A few years later he flew into the Snowdon range in cloud killing himself and five passengers.

G-AWBD – Bob Bentley was a well respected flying instructor at Woodvale but he also found out the hard way that clouds can contain hard centres. Bob was very lucky to escape with his life but was very seriously injured and never walked again properly, ending up in a wheelchair and dying prematurely after a very long illness associated with this crash. Along with two students, he was trapped by his legs in the aircraft for over 24 hours on Scafell Pike in the Lake District. He was in the process of turning back to Woodvale after deciding not to continue onto Carlisle in bad weather but he entered cloud below safety altitude, the picture belows shows the result. If Bob had turned back in the other direction this accident may not have occured. Always turn away from the highest ground

bob bently

All of the pilots above made bad decisions that either cost them their lives or caused them to be seriously injured. All were experienced pilots who displayed poor situational awareness and elected to fly below safety altitude illegally. As you may have heard me say before:




Wake Turbulence is the unseen killer and can really spoil your day or even have fatal consequences as this sad accident below, involving  G-AYMJ on the 28th November 1978, shows:
This was the definitive UK wake turbulence accident involving one of our most experienced flying instructors who was a  panel examiner and the chief flying instructor at Oxford Air Training, Carlisle. ERROR DOES NOT RESPECT EXPERIENCE!

wake turb

The pilot of a Cessna 182 was making a VFR approach to runway 32 at Salt Lake City International Airport, Utah.
The pilot reported that he was instructed by ATC to proceed “direct to the numbers” of runway 32 and pass behind a “Boeing” that was on final approach to runway 35.
The Cessna pilot reported that while on final approach, the aircraft experienced a “burble,” and then the nose pitched up and the aircraft suddenly rolled 90 degrees to the right.
The pilot immediately put in full-left deflection of rudder and aileron and full-down elevator in an attempt to level the aircraft and to get the nose down. As the aircraft began to respond to the correct attitude, the pilot realized that he was near the ground and pulled the yoke back into his lap. The aircraft crashed short of the threshold of runway 32, veered to the northeast, and came to rest in the approach end of runway 35.
The pilot and the two passengers suffered minor injuries, and the aircraft was destroyed. The wind was 5 knots from the south. The approach ends of runways 32 and 35 are about 560 feet apart. Radar data show that the Cessna was at an altitude of less than 100 feet above ground level (AGL) when it crossed the flightpath of the B-757. The B-757 had passed the crossing position about 38 seconds prior to the Cessna 182
At anytime you experience a suspected loss of control, especially on the approach or take off, take loss of control/stall recovery action and then CLIMB AWAY away the best rate of climb speed (never recover to straight and level, always recover to the climb – airspeed is lifeblood & height is insurance!) Notice in the above accident the pilot did not use full power to assist recovery.

wake turbulencewake turbulence twoAll pilots should be familiar with the latest AIC’s especially the pink ones dedicated to SAFETY. The current AIC on Wake Turbulence is below


We always schedule(usually pre first solo) pre briefed wake turbulence recovery practice into Ex 12E & 13E by the instructor inducing a large roll in excess of 40 degrees on final and then handing control to the student. Wake turbulence recovery is not part of the new EASA syllabus!


I notice some of you have out of date Air Law books and there is also some confusion about Class E airspace so the following may help. Remember for the air law exam you are never asked about specific airfields or specific pieces of controlled airspace so this information below is more about what I want you to know about rather than the popular,’ this is what you need to know to pass the exam’ style of courses!

There will also be some changes to VFR minima with SERA but the CAA has filed for exceptions which havnt been finalised yet, more later.

On the 18 September 2014, the London CTR control zone – the busiest piece of airspace in the UK through which all Heathrow traffic flies, changed from Class A to Class D airspace.

The reclassification supported the introduction of SERA, the Standardised European Rules of the Air (which will eventually replace our familiar Rules of The Air with a few exceptions) this created consistent airspace classifications across Europe by the end of the 2014, or so they say!

Under SERA, Visual Flight Rules (VFR) and Special VFR flights will not be able to enter Class A airspace.

The inner and outer area of the new London CTRThe inner and outer area of the new London CTR

Notice the new ‘warm front’ markings denoting a TRANSPONDER MANDATORY ZONE

All VFR or SVFR flights will need to gain clearance to enter the zone, something that is always subject to the current work load of air traffic controllers.

Aircraft will also have to carry a transponder, with Mode S being mandatory.

Access is provided whenever possible, but we would ask VFR and SVFR pilots to remember that this is a very busy piece of airspace and our priority has to be providing a safe service to commercial traffic.”

Access to the airspace immediately around Heathrow Airport itself – referred to as the ‘Inner Area’ – will be restricted via ‘Prior Permission Required’ by telephone.

Pilots are being reminded that unless they really need to fly inside the ‘Inner Area’, they should plan to route around it.

You will notice there are three airfields within the London Control Zone that are of interest to fixed wing pilots, Denham, White Waltham and Fairoaks, all of these airfields are surrounded by TMZ London CTR markings but none of these airfields seem to have got round to publishing any details about the new airspace on their websites, that I can see and this is why I say always use the official information when checking airfields, notams or weather. I would recommend a visit to White Waltham or Denham both of which have very good facilities for visiting pilots but obviously need careful preparation, briefing and flight.

Using the AIIP you will find this information for White Waltham which also applies to the other two airfields.

(b) Mode S Transponders (i) The carriage of a Mode S Transponder within the LFA is encouraged, however there is currently no requirement for aircraft operating in the White Waltham LFA to comply with the requirements of the London CTR Mode S Transponder Mandatory Zone (TMZ). (ii) Pilots of suitably equipped aircraft shall utilise the transponder to the maximum serviceable extent, selecting SSR code 7000 with altitude information selected where fitted.


Class F airspace has been established for many years in the UK Flight Information Regions (FIR) in the form of Advisory Routes (ADRs).

These ADRs have been replaced either by Class E ‘airways’, which will be designated as Transponder Mandatory Zones (TMZs), or returned to Class G airspace.

Although Class E is controlled airspace, in which an air traffic control service is provided to IFR aircraft only, VFR aircraft may also operate within it and do not require a ‘clearance’ or need to be in contact with ATC, they will, however, require a functioning Mode S SSR transponder.

VFR aircraft operating without a transponder can access the airspace, but must first establish two-way radio contact with air traffic control before entering. VFR flights that request an air traffic service will be assisted with either a Basic or a Traffic Service, subject to the operational capacity of the air traffic unit. Additional procedures are to be introduced to accommodate gliding activity through airway N560 between the Scottish TMA northern boundary and Inverness.

The changes have the greatest impact upon the Scottish FIR and there is more information on the Fly on Track site below


New Airspace Revision – RMZ’s & TMZ’s


RMZ’s are the poor mans controlled airspace, you cannot be told what to do inside the RMZ but you have to tell them what you are doing via the RT. Recently, as Southend airport changed from a toy airport to a real one, a RMZ was set up around it until this was replaced by permanent Class D controlled airspace.

A RMZ is airspace of defined dimensions wherein the carriage and operation of suitable/appropriate radio equipment is mandatory

The requirement for communications within a RMZ is as follows :

• VFR flights operating in parts of Classes E, F or G airspace and IFR flights operating in parts of Classes F or G airspace designated as a RMZ by the competent authority , shall establish two-way communication before entering the dimensions of the RMZ and maintain continuous air-ground voice communication watch, as necessary, on the appropriate communication channel, unless in compliance with alternative provisions prescribed for that particular airspace by the Controlling Authority
. • Before entering a RMZ, an initial call containing the designation of the station being called, call sign, type of aircraft, position, level, the intentions of the flight and other information as prescribed by the competent authority, shall be made by pilots on the appropriate communication channel.

The first RMZ was set up temporarily for Blackpool, for just under a month, while its radar was being replaced

The zone extended substantially beyond the airfield’s ATZ, stretching over 25 nm from East to West; a map shows the boundaries []

Hawarden Airport has proposed the setting up a RMZ, here is some information about the proposal:

Why Does Hawarden need an RMZ?

Hawarden Airport is situated within Class G Airspace (THE OPEN FIR) where two way communication with Air Traffic Control is not mandatory providing aircraft remain outside of the Aerodrome Traffic Zone (ATZ).

For the whole track of an IFR approach to Runway 04 and for a significant part of an IFR approach to Runway 22, aircraft operate within Class G Airspace.

For both runways, aircraft departures are flown in Class G Airspace before entering Class A (Controlled Airspace).

The reason we are considering the establishment of an RMZ is quite simply SAFETY. Hawarden is routinely used by large and fast aircraft, whilst at the same time General Aviation (GA) traffic has increased in volume and variety. We have witnessed an increasing number of unknown aircraft operating, totally legally, in the local area. Unfortunately, controllers aren’t always able to find a safe way to route aircraft around the unknown traffic, quite simply because we don’t know their intentions, they can turn, climb or descend at any point and we don’t know when that will happen. Moreover, smaller aircraft such as home-builds, and microlight-sized aircraft do not always generate a good radar return and sometimes they do display on radar at all. If we know your intentions in advance, we will be able to vector traffic to ensure the safety of all, whilst minimising the disruption to all flights.

Some of the types we have operating at Hawarden are:

  • Airbus Beluga Super Transporter
  • Embraer 145
  • Embraer 135
  • BAe 125
  • BAe 146
  • Citation 750
  • Challenger 300
  • Challenger 600
  • Falcon 2000
  • Hawker Horizon
  • Sentinel
  • Jetstream 31
  • BAe Hawk

Would you want to be in close proximity with one of these aircraft?

As with many UK airports, Hawarden Airport is in the process of evolving and developing: Beluga movements will increase as Airbus are increasing production and wing delivery over the next few years; the next generation Airbus Beluga may well be based on a larger aircraft; existing airframes in the business domain are being replaced by larger aircraft; other companies operating on the airport such as Airbus Helicopters, Marshall Aerospace and Flintshire Flying School are all looking to maximise flying opportunities.

The RMZ of course has the benefit of helping to reduce delays for our IFR aircraft but more importantly, significantly enhance the level of safety for all aircraft.


A TMZ is defined, as a volume of airspace within which aircraft are required to have and operate secondary surveillance radar equipment. TMZs are notified within the UK AIP for the purpose of Air Navigation Order 2009 Schedule 5 in relationship to Articles 28(7) and 39(2).

Some wind farms produce primary radar clutter on Air Traffic Control (ATC) radar screens. This clutter can obscure primary returns from aircraft and can interfere with radar tracking resulting in erroneous radar returns. This in turn reduces ATC’s ability to observe primary-only aircraft and increases the risk of ATC not detecting a conflict between aircraft and hence is detrimental to safety assurance. Large numbers of turbines would also lead to saturation of the radar processing systems unless blanked.

Blanking the wind farm areas eradicates clutter on PSR but will also prevent detection and display of primary returns from aircraft in the areas. In order to mitigate this loss of surveillance capability a Transponder Mandatory Zones may be introduced over the areas which are blanked to ensure visibility to ATC (via secondary radar) of all aircraft operating over the wind farms.

The Heathrow CTR is a mandatory transponder zone as are the runway approach ends of the Stansted CTA. You will also see a TMZ out to sea around the windfarm that is approximately 20 miles south east of the Clacton VOR.

The Southern chart is becoming swamped with airspace restrictions which is why we are so lucky at Halfpenny Green to have some of the most beautiful unobstructed FIR to our west. Amazingly most of the local flying schools choose to send their students into areas massed with other aircraft and airspace restrictions in the other direction!

Tamworth to Rugby down the A5 or Leominster to Shrewsbury beside The Long Mynd and The Clee Hill? Bit of a no brainer really but there again I prefer to keep my students as safe as possible and as happy as possible!  Even without the view it’s bad practice to have students returning from the east into sun, especially in the late afternoon but perhaps these schools think it’s easier to spot other traffic flying into sun! Although as one student found out when your instructors send you on a qualifying cross country with heavy rain showers the sun becomes the least of your worries. Guess what direction most of our weather comes from in this country? Duty of care starts by applying a little common sense!