Lesson Learned - Flying IFR

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One Winged Junkie
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Lesson Learned - Flying IFR

Post by One Winged Junkie » 03 Jan 2019 09:23

A story from a friend:

I've been lucky enough to get to do some "interesting" flying. Never felt scared, never felt in danger.

Yesterday, I was scared, felt seriously in danger...and, in reality...*was* in danger.

I was on an IFR flight from MS to Houston. Level, 4000 feet, in steady rain (had done a couple of deviations to avoid heavier rain). Now, back on course, solid IMC. I haven't seen a glimpse of ground, or sky, in 40 minutes.

i'm watching the G-600, closely, as my current instrument student is hand flying. (In my opinion, flying by hand, in the clouds, is the best training possible. And yes, it's legal to do that, as long as you are a CFI-I).

A target appears on the G600. Climbs up to my altitude....and stops. My quick assessment is that it's on a collision course. I ask Polk approach (to whom I was handed off 10 or so minutes prior), and ask about the traffic. He says, "he's VFR, and we're not talking to him...appears to be climbing".

I point out that I'm solid IMC, that we are on a collision course, and I need a vector NOW.

Polk gladly complies, and I turn, and the SOaB turns *towards* me. He also stops his climb. I descend, rapidly, make a hard turn (still solid IMC) and the target passes over me approximately 300 feet high...by both my ADSB and Polk's radar. It happens very quickly. Then it's over.

A cirrus on the frequency who has heard this whole exchange, and is in the same area, reports spontaneously that *he* is solid IMC as well.

Polk gets me turned back on course, I apologize for the unexpected hard turn and descent, and Polk says "you gotta do what you gotta do". He clearly is frustrated, but what can he do?

Polk periodically asks for "aircraft 'x' miles east of Alexandria, are you monitoring Polk approach?"

After a bit, NXX18X comes on and calls Polk, and says "I sort of accidentally got into the clouds"....Polk is surprisingly calm. Asks him if he needs a clearance, is IFR current, qualified, etc. 18X says "well, I've had the training, but I'm not current".

Polk offers to declare an emergency, 18X declines. He just wants to continue on to Texarkana. Polk approach gives him a squawk, tells him he nearly hit another plane (*ME*), and gives him a climb to 12000, where he finally gets into VMC.

AFAIK, 18X went on to TXK, landed okay, and went on with his day. We went to Houston, landed, and no paint was traded.

Frankly, it scared the &h!t out of me. But it was so quick....

-remember, ATC doesn't have to let you know about any VFR traffic. They can't tell you are IMC....and may (legally) assume that a VFR target is VMC, and you are VMC, and they won't necessarily call that traffic.
-if you are IMC, and you see on your ADSB that there is someone there....*speak up*. In retrospect, I should have asked about him when he was 12-15 miles away, rather than 5 miles. I made the assumption (yeah, I know.....) that since I was solid IMC, he was, and Polk would be turning him. In Atlanta airspace, we get that close all the time...but you can usually see what the controller is doing.
-as much as I *hate* the tracking aspect of ADSB....I can see the value now. it may well have saved my life.
-anyone who thinks it's "little airplane, big sky", and therefore can just blast through IMC without a clearance....is, to put it mildly, an idiot.

(sidebar: I so very much wanted to go on a rant on the air, cuss the stupid SOaB out, etc...but thought to myself "this dude may have innocents onboard, by his own admission isn't rated or current, and that might be enough to cause him to lose control". So I kept my mouth and said nothing. However....NXX18X....may the fleas of a thousand camels infest your scrotal and perianal region should you *ever* be that dumb again).

It has caused me to wonder....if I didn't have ADSB in that plane....how would yesterday have ended? I've taught enough formation to know how hard it is to arrive near another plane when you *want* to....would it have just been a radar anomaly for Polk? Or would sheet metal have been bent? I got my license in 1973. I have 11,500 plus hours. I was more alarmed yesterday than I ever remember.

Happy New Year, Y'all.