IFR Insight: Staying Ahead of the Airplane Makes Busy IFR Moments Less So
In cruise (not on approach) is the time to consider the consequences of things that could change. Do “what if” scenarios.
What if that front moves quicker or slower?
What if I miss the approach?
Anticipate changes and figure out the consequences so that if they do happen, you will be ready.
The time available in cruise flight is also your best opportunity to thoroughly brief and prepare for your descent and approach into your destination. If the wind and weather don’t favor any particular runway, self-brief approaches to several runways, just in case. Listen to the ATIS as far out as you can receive it to get the official word about which approach is in use. Or ask the ATC center that serves your destination which approach the airport is using. All of this lets you brief the approach in the calm of cruise flight, rather than when things get hectic on the arrival.
Another item that should be in your attention scan is ATC. Be alert to what clearances, holds, etc. other pilots are receiving. Get ahead on planning for those same clearances, or come up with an alternate plan if the clearances are not acceptable to you.
Depending on the equipment you have, you can load in frequencies and courses for your expected approach in advance — including frequencies for the missed approach. For example, if you are navigating en route using GPS, you can set in your ILS frequency and the frequency of the VOR you would use for the missed approach.
As soon as a controller gives you a vector in the terminal area, he is taking charge of your navigation. You should then set in the final approach course and tune the radios, unless you’re flying with a system like the Garmin G1000, which does it automatically for you.
The frequency for approach control shown on the approach chart is for the final approach controller. When you are given that frequency, tune the tower frequency into the standby position. That way you can switch easily to the tower, even when you’re in the middle of a busy approach.
When you make all of these things a habit, you will begin to think that IFR flying is all of a sudden easier — so much so that you will indeed become confident that you will always arrive at the airport at the same time your airplane does.
Martha King has helped make aviation knowledge more accessible to pilots worldwide by combining elegant technology with fun teaching. In 1994, she became the first woman to hold every category and class of FAA rating on her pilot certificate as well as every flight and ground instructor certificate. Her company, King Schools, also provides the curricula for the Cessna Pilot Centers.