This is an account of a recent overnight trip (4th June 2013) from Nuthampstead (BKY VOR) to Guernsey. Why “Easy IFR”? Well because it was easy. No weather to worry about. There was a big high pressure system over the UK and near continent, no fronts approaching and the freezing level up at 8000ft. I am flying a Robin DR400/180 Regent, a capable basic four seat tourer no autopilot and with a basic IFR radio fit. It was “state of the art” in 1993 when the aircraft was new, but compared to today’s composite gin palace Cirrus’s with autopilot and glass panel avionics, a bit of a crystal set.
I filed a “Z” (VFR 1st/IFR 2nd) flight plan staying VFR until WCO and IFR from there. After takeoff and getting my flight plan activated with Farnborough N orth, I was north of the Luton Zone travelling west towards BUZAD intersection at 3000ft. The next event was being told “contact London with your heading and squawk XXXX”. Shortly after I was “cleared to Southampton and climb to 6000ft Qnh” followed by “climb Flight level 070 followed by “climb Flight level 080 (my filed level). There was a small amount of scattered fair weather CU at 6000ft but above was smooth cool air. All trimmed out and power set for the cruise I could feel myself smiling (inside). I had some heading changes given by London control presumable for coordination with other traffic. One of the enjoyable things about this type of flying is that you are under positive control and you are not being told to look out for other traffic at 12o/c etc. Next event was handover to Solent Radar who had us until THRED intersection. I had a good tailwind on this leg with 150kts on the DME. Next I was told to contact Jersey Zone followed by handover to Guernsey approach who instructed me to “direct to MANTA” (an intersection).
An interesting point here about portable GPS units being used on IFR flights. I read an article on an American flying website where the author was querying the ban on using hand held GPS units for IFR flight. His answer to get around the legalities (or illegalities) of the situation was whenever he was given an instruction to head for xxx intersection he would ask for a heading first and then dial up the intersection on his handheld GPS so I presume he could say that he was only flying the heading he was given?
After MANTA I was given descent to 2000ft and had radar vectors to the ILS runway 09 in a 16kt gusting 26kt wind.
All went according to plan and was very enjoyable.
The return flight next day was flown by my group colleague who is a PPL/IMC, so we had to wait for the visibility to improve to Special VFR conditions before we could depart. We were on virtually the same route back but the way the flight had to be managed shows the difference between VFR and IFR. My flight out was above “Indian Territory” (my old IR instructor says Indian Territory is down low where the Cherokees fly) following ATC instructions on headings etc. Coming back we had to contact every ATC unit en-route and repeat all our details. We cajoled Jersey to let us climb to 6000ft once we were passed Alderney. From the Isle of Wight up to WCO was flown at 4000ft with basic service from Farnborough and plenty of instructions on “traffic 12o/c one mile no height information”.
The weather on the two days was not an issue and both the flights could easily have been carried out VFR, but having an IR that does not get used that much (apart from the yearly renewals) it was a real pleasure using the privilege to fly in controlled airspace. It’s nothing clever or special. If you can hold heading, height & speed you can get an IR.
I have had a UK/SEP IR since 1984 and did the training because I naively thought this would equip me for flight into bad weather. After a few scrapes with thunderstorms I quickly realised that for a happy life you need to limit yourself to VMC on top and have the freezing level a decent height above the ground. I have had some enjoyable flights over the years and have never regretted the expense and effort in getting the IR.
Very well put. IFR is much easier. I personally wouldn't worry about the heading thing - ATC are more likely to be annoyed at you for asking that every time that using whatever means you like to find an intersection. They couldn't care less how you find it in my view.
Nice write up :-) When did you go ? I went on Thursday the 6th, and recall those gusting winds - though luckily not too much crosswind. My photos are on another thread. The interesting thing is I flew just VFR and almost had the IFR experience that you had. We had a traffic service all the way from Panshanger (so near Nuthampstead) to Guernsey. At Blackbushe we climbed to Alt 3400, at Goodwood we climbed to FL060. To get above the haze layer, we climbed to FL 080. We routed between the Plymouth military zone and Airway Q41 to keep OCAS, and were later cleared to enter the Jersey zone class A SVFR not above alt 5000 ft, and given descent and radar vectors to runway 09.
On this occasion, like you, the flight was simple (especially on autopilot), though I do accept that most of the time VFR is not so easy, and your IFR route sounded better being just above in the CAS :-)
Hi Piper Archer,
I did intend to fly from Panshanger, having flown down from Nuthampstead for fuel. When it came to paying I could not locate my wallet despite my tipping everything out of my flying bag and overnight bag. So my colleague had to pay and it was back to Nuthampstead to see if I had left it in my car. As it turned out it was in my overnight bag all the time in an almost invisible pocket. Its all part of another source of constantly trying to improve cockpit organisation, something that I will never master. The consequence was a later takeoff than planned plus changing the flight plan in AFPEX which was the first time I did it from my netbook at our hanger.
That's a great writeup and I agree with the conclusion as regards the mission capability.
At high altitude, the temperatures tend to mean that one needs to avoid prolonged periods of IMC flight, unless one has the de-ice etc equipment. A lot of pilots don't agree with this cautious attitude but you don't hear from the ones who got killed doing it.
As I often say, if European ATC operated airspace in accordance with ICAO classifications, most IR flight could be done with a PPL. The UK and Italy's extensive Class A are two difficulties but the rest of Europe would be easy.
The proposed EIR, if it comes, will deal with this nicely and will be great for European touring, for people with an altitude-capable plane but without an IR. Unfortunately the EIR syllabus won't be much short of an IR...
I read an article on an American flying website where the author was querying the ban on using hand held GPS units for IFR flight. His answer to get around the legalities (or illegalities) of the situation was whenever he was given an instruction to head for xxx intersection he would ask for a heading first and then dial up the intersection on his handheld GPS so I presume he could say that he was only flying the heading he was given?
I think that is simply wrong. No modern country has laws dictating what equipment is actually used to navigate on private flights. There are plenty of rules on equipment carriage, and even (mostly in the USA) on substitution of say a GPS for ADF or DME. But actual usage is controlled only on AOC (paying passenger, mainly) flights, where the ops manual states how you are supposed to fly.
There is a massive amount of folklore on GPS being illegal, etc, and practially all of it is wrong. But the national CAAs have been spreading this FUD for many years and now they are reaping the harvest, in the form of many CAS busts.