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Thread: Usefulness of IFR equipage in Alaska without anti-ice capability

  1. #1

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    Usefulness of IFR equipage in Alaska without anti-ice capability

    Quick question for the more experienced pilots in here than I, and yes I will preface this by saying I realize it's mission dependent, but:

    In Alaska (and yes, I know, a huge state) or other mostly-cold-weather states, is IFR capability a nice thing to have in light aircraft without wing anti-ice capability?

    If the aircraft you were flying was type certificated for IFR but didn't have the necessary equipment, how much would you be willing to spend to equip it? 1% of the aircraft's value? 5%? A fixed dollar amount? $0.00? Do you think it would increase the resale value of the aircraft at all? Yes I know, most PA-18's are not type certificated for IFR, so this is a more general question.

    It seems to me that in the summer, and even sometimes in the winter at very cold temps (below 0F), you might often want to fly in clouds and be reasonably confident that there will not be icing. Even if you just used the capability to climb above a low ceiling at a controlled airport and get to better weather that you knew was just a few miles away, it might be worth the expense given the prevalence of micro-climates in the state.

    So, is it crazy to spend extra money to IFR equip an Alaska plane?

    I fly presently fly 182 that is technically IFR capable, but at the moment has a single VOR/ILS only (no DME) which practically renders it VFR-only (even most of the ILS approaches require DME). Contemplating an upgrade.

    Thanks.

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    Are you flying airport to airport? I have zero interest.
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    Quote Originally Posted by stewartb View Post
    Are you flying airport to airport? I have zero interest.
    Most of the time I am, because it's a 182. I am based at an airport with controlled airspace to the surface, so there's no option to escape low ceilings while remaining clear of clouds, outside of begging for a special VFR clearance, which is hit or miss, and a bit sketchy over "congested areas" anyhow given the minimum safe altitude requirements in the FARs. Still, I'm a recreational flyer so on most of those days I just don't even try, even if I can see blue skies out my window across the inlet while the airport is calling 500 OVC.

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    Good case study, do you think the Begich aircraft would've made it if the pilot had flown IFR? According to the story they were on a VFR flight plan, and perhaps found themselves inadvertently in IMC. I understand that they couldn't have gone IFR without a second pilot, though.
    Last edited by Narwhal; 03-06-2021 at 01:09 AM.

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    GPS and keep it over the blue. Fun until you meet the other guy doing the same thing.
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    BC12D-4-85's Avatar
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    Add all the com or nav gadgets you want plus pitot heat...once iced (mostly rime, but) how does your plane fly, can you find warm air, and how well can you defrost the window with cabin heat? Best to learn slips if not. And yes some days you will have company scooting scud.

    Gary
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    It’s pretty amazing how much ice a sled can carry...
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    I have zero desire to do single engine piston IFR in Alaska. It would work in the summer, but unless you have WAAS most RNAV approaches won’t get you that low. Of course if you’re not straying far from the Anchorage area that won’t matter.
    Catch the fish, to make the money, to buy the bread, to gather the strength, to catch the fish...
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    Quote Originally Posted by Narwhal View Post
    Quick question for the more experienced pilots in here than I, and yes I will preface this by saying I realize it's mission dependent, but:

    In Alaska (and yes, I know, a huge state) or other mostly-cold-weather states, is IFR capability a nice thing to have in light aircraft without wing anti-ice capability?
    What do you consider the requirement to be for "IFR capability"? The actual requirements are small. Most airplanes which are "IFR equipped" are overloaded with extra not needed stuff which is only used for bragging purposes. Sure dual this or that is nice, but not needed. Wing anti-ice capability is extra cost, maintenance, weight and there are very few times when you would use or need it. In Alaska or elsewhere. Even when flying professionally, there is a very small percentage of time when you actually turn it on.
    N1PA
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    May not apply to you narwhal, but if I’m IFR I want to look to my left and see nothing but engines, and to my right and see nothing but copilots....
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    Quote Originally Posted by mam90 View Post
    May not apply to you narwhal, but if I’m IFR I want to look to my left and see nothing but engines, and to my right and see nothing but copilots....
    I couldn't agree more...
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    Quote Originally Posted by mam90 View Post
    May not apply to you narwhal, but if I’m IFR I want to look to my left and see nothing but engines, and to my right and see nothing but copilots....
    Now that right there was funny - I don't care who you are...

    Personally, if I'm IFR, I wanna see a flight attendant, extending a drink toward me...

    But seriously, although I'm instrument rated (helicopters, not fixed wing - long story), I don't fly IFR. I don't often fly in marginal VFR – and even then, only if I'm flying towards significantly higher ceilings and visibility. Scud-running these days, with all the cell towers, etc. is just flat-out dangerous - even in billiard-table flat NE Texas!

    That said, I'm about to install what I would consider an "inadvertent IFR escape package" in my airplane – a GRT Sport EX EFIS. A lot less expensive than an AI, T&B, etc. I'm just looking for enough capability to do a 180º turn and get the heck out of Dodge.

    PS - this additional capability will NOT change my personal minimums for weather. It will just help my wife sleep a little better when I'm away from home.
    Jim Parker
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    Click image for larger version. 

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ID:	54533For me, flying in Montana, Idaho, Alberta, BC and Alaska, the bigger issue has been forest fire smoke. No danger of ice but it can sure change visibility. I'm not interested in flying in the clouds in the mountains on but I certainly have in smoke on instruments.
    Last edited by spinner2; 03-06-2021 at 11:09 AM.
    "Fast is fine, but accuracy is everything." Wyatt Earp
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    Quote Originally Posted by spinner2 View Post
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ID:	54533For me, flying in Montana, Idaho, Alberta, BC and Alaska, the bigger issue has been forest fire smoke. No danger of ice but it can sure change visibility. I'm not interested in flying in the clouds in the mountains on but I certainly have in smoke on instruments.

    That's a good point. I don't care to think of the number of hours I've slogged around the Interior in limited visibility in smoke, and there have been a couple of times that I climbed up and filed IFR because it went from a couple miles to a mile and a half and then to basically nothing.

    I also filed IFR and flew in smoke the legal way some as well. The hiccup there came one day as I headed north out of FAI and the Departure controller gave me the "Radar contact lost, frequency change approved and have a nice flight, and, oh, by the way, do you see that rather large thunderstorm cell ahead?"

    To which I replied "Uh, nope....where is it?" "Your heading and approximately six miles."

    "Ummm, maybe I'll return to FAI.". Turned out there were all sorts of thunderstorms out on the Yukon Flats that day. A friend flew a Shrike Commander through a thunderstorm enroute to FAI one afternoon. Said it was an "Interesting" ride. I'll bet.

    So, while icing protection would be nice to have in cold weather, airborne radar might be handy in summer time.

    Be careful out there.

    MTV
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    BC12D-4-85's Avatar
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    Imbedded TRW'S - That's where a ADS-B or SIRIUSXM WX compatible receiver would come in handy. Find and avoid the bumps and precipitation. Flying smoke is interesting...good vertical vis at times with lots of contrast and color from reflective sun to disorient the pilot.

    Gary
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    skywagon8a's Avatar
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    Much more useful than ADS-B or SIRIUSXM WX when in the proximity to TRWs is this: All the information is current and related to you with no second hand time lapse information. There are other units available, no need for radar.
    N1PA
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    BC12D-4-85's Avatar
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    Anything would be better than having no outlook. Pyrocumulus clouds generated from large updrafts associated with intense fires are common problems in summer. Unless the smoke spread is widespread they can be seen above the lower smoke layer. The problem comes in my experience when running Class G airspace or up into Class E like on floats doing low level water work. My experience with ADS-B or SIRIUSXM is secondary so far...seeing it for the first time on another pilots iPad last summer made me take note of its potential.

    Gary
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    I think you guys have just about convinced me to stick to a VFR panel, and abandon any thoughts I had about avionics upgrade, on the 182 or any aircraft I might acquire in the future. I've gotten pretty comfortable using foreflight on an ipad for navigation. The IFR avionics are pretty expensive, and maybe having the capability would cause me to be less conservative with go/no-go decision making, making my flying less safe. It just would seem nice to have if the airplane ever went to the L48.

    Acceptable risk is something I struggle to define in AK flying sometimes, there are so many times when I'm flying over a glacier or mountains where I have a hard time envisioning any good outcome were the engine to fail. I do my best to stay away from the water though.

    I wonder how prudent it is to rely on stratux and an Ipad as your sole means navigation even under VFR only....probably still more prudent than flying single engine, single pilot IFR in Alaska. Backup Ipad and a backup GPS might be worthwhile. Since this type of flying for me is purely recreational, probably better to just stay on the ground on marginal days.
    Last edited by Narwhal; 03-07-2021 at 12:29 PM.
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    BC12D-4-85's Avatar
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    I'm not an expert in flying SP IFR with current equipment in Alaska. I've survived not a lot - about 8K hrs - over 47 years in Alaska on a variety of gear by respecting the limitations of various aircraft and especially me. Me and passengers being the reason to return to land safely....airplanes are expendable. Nothing wrong with current cockpit awareness - and nothing wrong with risk assessment driving flying or doing a 180 back to better WX if it still exists. It's basic knowing where you are and where you don't want to be learned by experience. It's when you're paid to fly that it gets complicated.

    Gary
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    Quote Originally Posted by Narwhal View Post
    Acceptable risk is something I struggle to define in AK flying sometimes, there are so many times when I'm flying over a glacier or mountains where I have a hard time envisioning any good outcome were the engine to fail. I do my best to stay away from the water though.
    I think we all have our personal struggles with this, and it’s based on our experience, phase of life etc....
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  22. #22

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    Edit: Missed the part about you having already operated in AK a bunch. Looks like you've made decisions.


    I’ve picked up ice below 10K in AK in early August, so wouldn’t make any assumptions about icing risks.

    Having often departed IFR from fields in “mostly-cold-weather states” to get through localized overcast, fire haze/smoke, and TFR’s, “yes,” some IFR capability is handy at times. But the bigger question is do you have to go? The aspect of having to get somewhere has probably killed more people in airplanes in Alaska than any other factor. For most of us tooling around in light aircraft in class G airspace, there is usually an option to stay put and wait for better.

    And to depart IFR into IMC only to have the engine quit over mountains/rough terrain? Forget it. Little chance of an out.

    You sound like you’re contemplating either retirement up here or at least spending some serious time exploring. Why don’t you wait a bit on upgrades and do some more flying here first? A VFR-only 182 is a fine plane for moving around the state for a while.

    Just bring some books or a wood carving kit for the weather.

    Quote Originally Posted by Narwhal View Post
    Quick question for the more experienced pilots in here than I, and yes I will preface this by saying I realize it's mission dependent, but:

    In Alaska (and yes, I know, a huge state) or other mostly-cold-weather states, is IFR capability a nice thing to have in light aircraft without wing anti-ice capability?

    If the aircraft you were flying was type certificated for IFR but didn't have the necessary equipment, how much would you be willing to spend to equip it? 1% of the aircraft's value? 5%? A fixed dollar amount? $0.00? Do you think it would increase the resale value of the aircraft at all? Yes I know, most PA-18's are not type certificated for IFR, so this is a more general question.

    It seems to me that in the summer, and even sometimes in the winter at very cold temps (below 0F), you might often want to fly in clouds and be reasonably confident that there will not be icing. Even if you just used the capability to climb above a low ceiling at a controlled airport and get to better weather that you knew was just a few miles away, it might be worth the expense given the prevalence of micro-climates in the state.

    So, is it crazy to spend extra money to IFR equip an Alaska plane?

    I fly presently fly 182 that is technically IFR capable, but at the moment has a single VOR/ILS only (no DME) which practically renders it VFR-only (even most of the ILS approaches require DME). Contemplating an upgrade.

    Thanks.
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  23. #23
    JimParker256's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Narwhal View Post
    II wonder how prudent it is to rely on stratux and an Ipad as your sole means navigation even under VFR only....probably still more prudent than flying single engine, single pilot IFR in Alaska. Backup Ipad and a backup GPS might be worthwhile. Since this type of flying for me is purely recreational, probably better to just stay on the ground on marginal days.
    There are two potential issues with sole reliance on and iPad...

    Issue #1) Overheating / shutdown: This used to be a more common occurrence than it is today. I've learned to keep the iPad in the shade before flying, and keep it pretty much "vertical" when in flight, and so forth. Plus, Apple has made the more recent iPad models a bit more robust in this regard. So it's pretty rare, and even if it does happen, a few minutes in the shade, with some air blasting over it, and the problem self-resolves.

    Issue #2) GPS interference / outages: These can impact ANY GPS-based device, so having an IFR navigator may not help you much. If anything, using a fairly recent iPad or iPhone (or even an Android device comparably equipped) should be better in this regard. The "GPS" chips used in most modern high-end phones (iPhone 8 and more recent, iPads from that same time frame forward) actually receive positioning signals from four different space-based satellite networks (US GPS, Russian GLONASS, European Galileo, and Japan's QZSS constellations).

    My strategy for dealing with issue #1 is that I use my iPad as "primary" and my iPhone as "backup". I usually create the flight plan on the iPad, then cross-load it to my iPhone. (Different EFBs use different approaches for this, but Foreflight makes it particularly easy as long as both devices are connected to the same Wi-Fi network.) I usually keep the iPhone display turned off, and even shut down Foreflight so that I'm not using battery life. It takes well under a minute to get it out, turn it on, and start Foreflight with the flight plan already loaded. And although I've practiced this a few times (in flight, for better realism), I've never needed to do it "for real"...

    Issue #2 is potentially a much bigger risk, since even IFR navigators are impacted by a GPS-spoofing or GPS-interference test conducted by the military. I live in an area that is often within the "possibly affected" areas of those infamous testing NOTAMS, and have experienced loss of position information from the "FAA-approved" WAAS GPS system of my ADS-B OUT system (which in my case also provides a GPS signal I use for the iPad). But, when I look at the iPhone Xr I use as my "backup", and which is NOT connected to the ADS-B OUT system, but relies on the internal iPhone chipset, it did NOT lose position information. I believe (but cannot confirm) that the iPhone used the GLONASS and Galileo systems to overrule the "bad" or "scrambled" data from the GPS satellites. So I'm "hopeful" that this makes the system a bit more robust in that regard.

    Finally, my "last resort" is to just go back to the basics – map reading 101... Even without the GPS signal, the EFBs continue to display the VFR sectional, which is how I navigated VFR when I first learned to fly. I make it a point to occasionally disconnect from the GPS signal, just to practice my map reading and visual navigation the "old school way..." That's also the only time I would really notice whether or not there was a compass on board - LOL.

    PS - The next time I replace my iPad (waiting for the next-gen iPad Mini - hopefully this Spring / Summer), I will purchase one with the built-in cellular and GPS chipset (all in one chip) so I can just disconnect the iPad from the ADS-B OUT signal, and use the built-in "GPS" capability like I do with the iPhone. I don't activate the cellular network part of that chip, but that built in chip is what enables GPS/GLONASS/Galileo/QZSS reception.
    Jim Parker
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  24. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnnyR View Post
    Edit: Missed the part about you having already operated in AK a bunch. Looks like you've made decisions.
    I have just enough Alaska experience to be very dangerous, about 100 fixed wing and 50 helo hours in AK. That’s probably prime time to make a bad mistake for most aviation endeavors, dunning Krueger style. Flying light airplanes here, for me, provides periodically shifting feelings of paranoia and joy. At the moment I don’t have a very trusting relationship with my airplane.

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    From my perspective, having an IFR capable airplane gives you at least the ability to request a special if needed to get in or out of somewhere. I fly mostly on the east coast, so Mountains aren’t like they are out west or in AK.


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  26. #26
    Alex Clark's Avatar
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    In my mind there are two types of IFR flight:

    A. Intentionally taking-off or flying into IFR conditions while relying on your gear.

    B. Using your IFR gear to safely get home when snow, clouds, mist, or smoke catch you in a bind.

    C. IFR-WIHGRN. I friggin really wish I had gear right now.

    I don't do A. I have done B a few times and lived to type about it. Particularly back when I was doing a lot of CAP searches. I have had C a couple time in a simple panel Cub and forest fire smoke.
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    Last edited by Alex Clark; 03-20-2021 at 03:13 PM.
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    http://www.floatplanealaska.com

    or http://www.dragonflyaero.net
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  27. #27
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    I know lots of guys with beautiful airplanes and the newest avionics but they still only fly on bluebird days. It is hard to get the money back at resale since avionics are upgraded so frequently now. I prefer the simplicity of a basic gauges in my cub especially when it comes time for the annual maintenance. Flying in new places I use all the available information with ForeFlight and an old Garmin 296. It is hard to stay proficient with the IFR stuff but practice with a safety pilot to keep the wings level and avoid disorientation. I call it “bush IFR” using the basic instruments to avoid a CFIT situation practiced with a safety pilot. Some guy like to talk on the radio and flip switches and I am amazed at how good they are at doing it but they spend less time looking out the window. When I was airplane shopping and saw a nice airplane with an updated panel it just made me think how much weight I could save pulling all that stuff out. The fancy IFR panels are a very personal preference but I’d prefer to leave that flying to someone that does it everyday and trains on a simulator every month.
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  28. #28

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    How it happens in real life. You’ve been out on the west side for a few days hunting. Weather is decent to head home so away you go. Things start getting a little low, not bad, so you go through Hell’s Gate because Ptarmigan is nice and wide and gradual. All’s good to Puntilla and then you see a layer that stretches forever with room underneath. You slide under it and get down to the Hayes and recognize this layer is getting lower and lower but right now you’ve got 600’ and 3 miles, but 3 miles from under 600’ looks scarier than it sounds. Decision time. What are you going to do? Climb and hope? You just shot a big wad on a cool Cub that can land in places other types can’t and there are lots of places to land along the rivers below. Here’s the thing. Land and wait it out. Or limp into Skwentna if you can. I don’t know about you but that’s why I have a Cub that can loiter all day long at 40mph. Your FX3 will be VERY different than your 182 when vis gets low. It’ll open up options you don’t have now.
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    "When I was airplane shopping and saw a nice airplane with an updated panel it just made me think how much weight I could save pulling all that stuff out."

    Interesting viewpoint... But one of the main reasons I'm considering installing an EFIS is to save weight over the multiple instruments it will replace. Of course, I'm not installing a 12-inch display, either...
    Jim Parker
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  30. #30

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    Norwhal, on days like the one I described? My wife’s really good at reading my comfort level before we take off. Sometimes I hear the pop of a can and turn to see her hand me a beer. Her will being exercised. Tomorrow’s another day.
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    I sure wished for it on this day. Better to have it and not need it than the other way around.
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  32. #32

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    So what did you add after that experience?
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    slowmover's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stewartb View Post
    So what did you add after that experience?
    Great question. At first I just learned from the experience. But eventually I sold the Super Cub, bought a 180, and installed a WAAS GPS.
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    Quote Originally Posted by stewartb View Post
    Norwhal, on days like the one I described? My wife’s really good at reading my comfort level before we take off. Sometimes I hear the pop of a can and turn to see her hand me a beer. Her will being exercised. Tomorrow’s another day.
    That is one hell of a lady. You are a luck man.


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    Cherokee that departed here a couple years ago. Couldn’t get above 2500 agl and had to return. Happens a lot in this area.
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    I worked for a few years in SE, we would use the anti-ice year around down there. No place I'd like to take my Cub, and can't imagine going some place where I would need an IFR panel. I think in the above scenario I'd land, pitch a tent, and read a book a book for a few days.
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  37. #37
    aktango58's Avatar
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    In the Sitka office we had pictures of the Navajo covered in ice from a quick 40 minute flight. Was told the approach was shot fast with high power, spinners were caked in ice.

    That said, it is interesting how Alaska is branded as a 'no single IFR' area. Anyone really want to tell me we are any more likely to have a bad day with an engine loss on climb than if coming out of the west coast headed east over the mountains? Or out of Denver going west? How about in the North East where we would fly during the WAD? Seriously, if you have an engine out over much of the country you are in for a time.

    So back to IFR- there is lots of Alaska that single IFR would not be a big deal. Wasilla or Palmer to Homer? No worries. Or shoot down the coast from Cordova to Yakutat. West of the Alaska Range from Lake Clark to the coast would be just fine also, as would much of the Yukon River areas...

    It is the pilot I generally am concerned about. It is really hard to stay current, even if you live in Arizona you need to spend time flying IFR to be current. With an average of 50 hours a year for private pilots flight hours, that is hardly enough time to keep current, (talking actually current not legal current).

    With a basic panel like you describe, I am going to guess you have marker beacons? A hand held type GPS and an iPad are probably better improvements than an expensive panel. The iPad can be set up for synthetic vision, and trust me it Is good. It is also larger and easier to see than most certified stuff.

    If a GPS blackout happens, I don't think your $10,000 WAAS GPS will be any better than the iPad and handheld- they are all reading the same output.

    If you were intending to make a habit of flying from Fairbanks to Galena on a weekly basis, or even monthly, maybe you could consider going to more expensive avionics, but if it is just to be in there in case- spend the money on having an instructor fly with you once or twice a month and keep your scan going.

    My opinion, worth what you paid for it.
    I don't know where you've been me lad, but I see you won first Prize!
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  38. #38

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    Some information on what is needed for IFR instruments .https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQZAm0EnBrc
    DENNY
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  39. #39
    mvivion's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by aktango58 View Post
    That said, it is interesting how Alaska is branded as a 'no single IFR' area.
    George,

    The air taxis in the Interior and western Alaska have been operating single engine airplanes under 135 for many years.....generally, but not exclusively-Caravans. And usually De-Iced Caravans. But, yes, single engine IFR can be quite safe.

    I do agree that the pilot is likely the bigger concern, unless he/she is regularly flying IFR either at work or in their private aircraft. Most of those flying small single engine aircraft in Alaska probably don't meet that standard.

    I got myself caught on top once in a Husky with a Turn Coordinator, airspeed and altimeter, and a VFR GPS. Long story, but I asked Fairbanks Approach for vectors to a large open area with no terrain in the Tanana Valley south of FAI, asked them to keep an eye on me for traffic avoidance, and that I was going to do a descent.

    Controller responded "Is the pilot instrument rated and the aircraft IFR equipped?". My response was "Yes and no." Controller responded: "Okay, fly heading 270 and start your descent". Was a 2400 foot descent to a 1200 foot overcast and 2 miles visibility under. I broke out, called Approach and told them I was visual underneath, and requested a Special VFR clearance into the FAI surface area, which the controller approved.

    On Ground control after landing, I asked if ATC needed to talk to me or a report. "Nope, just glad it worked out for you, have a good one.". I did file an ASRS report, in any case.

    Next day, I called our Aircraft folks and told them we WERE going to install an Artificial Horizon in that Husky.

    Since then, I've had at LEAST an artificial horizon in every airplane I've flown, except the no electric PA-11 I owned for a few years. I have no intent or desire to operate in IMC voluntarily. But, if I manage to get myself into another sticky situation, I'd really like to have a better tool than a Turn Coordinator to help me keep right side up.

    I've installed AV-30C instruments in my current ride. If I owned a Cub, I'd have one of those installed ASAP. Lots of information, and super light weight. The thing will even give you a Density Altitude readout....

    MTV
    Last edited by mvivion; 03-21-2021 at 09:18 PM.
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  40. #40
    wireweinie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by aktango58 View Post
    . . . That said, it is interesting how Alaska is branded as a 'no single IFR' area. . . .
    Down south it usually doesn't take twenty five or thirty years to find the wreckage.

    Web
    Life's tough . . . wear a cup.
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