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:




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