Friday, January 2, 2015

A Reply to "Walter" About Preparing For SPIFR (Single Pilot Instrument Flight Rules) Flights

Walter writes: Going to make the leap to an IFR EMS base. after 30 years mostly VFR utility/ EMS. Any tips or resources from an operational point of view for someone in my situation. Thank you in advance. 

Occasionally, in the midst of all the chaff on the JustHelicopters original forum,  a real helicopter-related topic comes up - you know, something other than my boss, job, company, coworkers, nurse, medic, pilot SUCKS... These rare points of light are enjoyable, and if you aren't familiar with the forum I encourage you to check it out and look for the stuff worth looking at.

(disclaimer: these comments should not be construed as substituting for an authorized course of training, these are things to consider post-training)

Feel free to chime in with a comment below if you have anything constructive to add...

Hi Walter,

Think crawl, walk, run...

Start out doing very simple IFR legs in weather that doesn't challenge you too much. Add IFR legs to your can-do file slowly, perhaps after flying them under IFR in VFR conditions so you can get the lay of the land, and see where you actually will be in reference to hard objects before flying "blind." Always have at least two ways out of the clouds ( an emergency screaming descent doesn't count), and enough fuel to to both. Your alternate must have weather allowing you to break out, and if you are flying EMS, your alternate should work for the patient too. You do them no favors taking them away from the care they need. Make sure you are comfortable using every system on the aircraft, and also make sure that you are able to fly IFR with no help from any system. A reference was made to the Careflight crash - if radios and systems start giving you problems, let that stuff go and just fly the aircraft. And as required ask for help...

Remember that every emergency procedure you are responsible for handling while flying VFR can occur while in the clouds; like engine failure, TR failure or loss of control, or hydraulic failure. My BK autopilot used to quit in turbulence and to reset it you had to pull two circuit breakers, wait, and cuss. A friend was shooting an approach in moderate rain and thick cloud, and had turned his wipers on. The wiper motor got hot and started smoking, forcing the single pilot and his crew to identify the source of an electrical fire - talk about distraction. If a generator is going to quit - it will quit in the clouds!

Ask for emergency procedure training to be integrated into your SPIFR training... Most companies don't do this.

I disagree with folks who say that SPIFR and HEMS don't go together. I have done it with Hershey, Geisinger, and Omniflight. It's nice to have another option.  And I think that being IFR current and proficient makes one a better all-around pilot. (I am a VFR Astar pilot these days and miss IFR flying.) You do not need to do 6 approaches in 6 months - you will take an instrument check ride every six months and this will handle currency (if not proficiency...) Procedural trainers are better than nothing, Sim training is great.

Don't jump in over your head. Take your time, get used to the machine and the area first...

Crawl... fly your area under VFR in VMC. Play with all the gadgets on your aircraft. Learn normal, versus degraded, versus inop, and what this will mean to you. Become an expert on the use of your GPS,  The time will come when being able to immediately access any feature will be important. Keep in mind that more than one pilot has begun an ILS with the display showing GPS information. As a technique, prepare lesson plans and instruct your crew members on all your gadgets, radios, and indicators. They will listen - they want to know that you know...

Walk...fly your area under IFR in VFR conditions, shoot the approaches. Talk to ATC. Tune radios. The whole enchilada, but in good weather.

Run... fly legs you are comfortable and proficient on under IFR in IMC (with a second way out).

Years ago a SPIFR guy crashed in PA while getting fuel, solo. He got confused, or behind the aircraft - or maybe had a system failure.. And then there was the Careflight crash...

Click here for a story about that crash from the crew's perspective

Those are the only HEMS SPIFR crashes I remember...Anyone else?

safe flights

PS. If you are flying company owned approaches, remember they only get checked once a year (volunteer to be the guy doing the checking with a fed onboard). Towers can come up between checks... watch out.


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