• This site moved from forums.flightinfo.com to flightinfo.com. Please update your bookmarks.

Single engine IFR

USMCmech

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 7, 2005
Posts
259
Total Time
700
Obiously flying in the clouds with only one engine has it's risks, but is it unsafe? Same goes for over water, over rough terain, at night.


My view is "it depends".

There are plenty of aircraft flying around that are borderline unsafe for day VFR, and many of those meet the legal requirements to fly IFR if they wish.

OTOH there are plenty of singles which are well maintained and have redunant systems flown by skilled pilots who know what they are doing. I don't see any problem flying these planes.


First off lets talk about the engine which is the only thing seperating you from a very bad situation. In my experiance the engine is actually one of the most robust parts of the plane. Sudden total engine failure not due to fuel exaustion/starvation or carb ice, are extreamly rare (they do happen however). If you are flying along and your engine "just quits all of a sudden" it's probably the fault of the dummy behind the wheel. Most often the engine will suffer some sort of partial failure and continue making some power, while giving you time to get to a landing site.



Much more common are system failures were the vacume pump or alternator decide to quit. This is were most singles show their disadvantage. Most only have one vacum pump and the alternator is only backed up by a battery that will run most essential items for only 30 minutes. Thats IF and only IF you catch the failure right away. If you are not alert you can slowly drain the battery untill the lights start diming, then you are back in the 1920s.

Of the two I consider an electrical faiure much more dangerous in the clouds, all your radios, transponder, CDIs, RMI, turn cordinator, HSI, and lights, are now running on a very short clock depending on how good you battery is.

A vacum failure will also really put you up a smelly creek with only a small paddle. Unless you regually pratice useing the TC as your primary reference you will really struggle to keep the plane right side up.

Guess which one the FAA thinks you should train for?


Most important of all, the pilot. Most singles which are flown IFR are done so by "weekend wariors" like myself. Unless you regulary practice IFR skills disapear fast. Currently I havent been IFR current for a couple of years. Therfore I don't consider myself IFR capable. If I find myself in the clouds I'm going to find my way out FAST! The writting on my pilots liscense won't help me fly the plane. Many others flying IFR only when required have skills which are not as up to date as they should be. The requirements for flying aproaches within the last 6 months help, but since many of those are under the hood, they still don't fully prepare you for the real thing.

I think putting all your faith in any airplane single or twin is less than wise. Anything man made can and will fail eventually. Even airliners have hundreds of items where a single failure could be disastrous.

However I think pilots spend far to much time talking about equipment instead of looking in the mirror. Most crashes happen because the pilot flew a perfectly good airplane into the ground. Loss of controll, fuel exaustion, CFIT, are all pilot error wehre the plane held up it's part of the bargin, but the pilot didn't.
 

minitour

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 17, 2004
Posts
3,249
USMCmech said:
Obiously flying in the clouds with only one engine has it's risks, but is it unsafe? Same goes for over water, over rough terain, at night.
I think of the stuff you mentioned, I'd pick IFR over flying over water (even though I've been across the great lakes a few times...not fun) and flying over water over flying over rough terrain at night...

I don't find IFR in a single much more dangerous than IFR in a light piston twin. At least if I lose an engine, I know I'm not gonna Vmc myself in a single :p.

-mini
 

JimG

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 1, 2005
Posts
205
Total Time
1600
USMCmech said:
Obiously flying in the clouds with only one engine has it's risks, but is it unsafe? Same goes for over water, over rough terain, at night.

I dunno...That smooth running Continental that never hiccuped in the 1000 hours I had in my Bonanza over flat land during day VFR just never ran right over water, or at night....I was constantly tweaking that mixture and throttle the whole time.

I've never flown over dark, unpopulated, rough terrain in a single, nor would I fly in IMC at night either....regardless of how many engines I have.

Even though the 340 is more complex to fly....I do feel safer in her while in clouds, or at night than I did in the M35. Some of it's altitude differences and some of it is system redundancy.
 

GravityHater

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 12, 2004
Posts
1,168
Total Time
3000
There is a continuum of risk from 'no risk' to 'you're probably gonna die', so no one can say 'this' is risky but 'that' is not.

To clarify:

Lowest risk
1watching TV on your sofa
2taking a bath
3the sidewalk on mainstreet
4driving
5hiking up a mountain
6motorcycling
7parachuting
8base jumping
9shooting up heroin
10russian roulette
Highest risk
don't nitpick my order, try to concentrate only on the gist of my thought.
.
Everyone, by virtue of being an individual, has their personal level of acceptable risk. My mother would never went past #3, bless her soul.
I know guys who are bored with life unless they are up near #8.

Those of us in flying are the same, we have our own personal risk levels. No one can say you are 'wrong' or label you as 'unsafe' because you won't fly single engine imc, or night mountain flying, or ultralight across the pacific. All they can say is 'your risk tolerance is higher than mine'.
 
Last edited:

OrcasC180

Should be OrcasC205 now..
Joined
Dec 27, 2003
Posts
56
Total Time
500+
Personally, I am OK flying single-engine IFR with a couple of caveats:

1) I don't like the idea of flying in IMC (or even marginal VFR) at night. My personal limits for flying my single-engine plane at night is that it has to be very good VMC conditions. I have encountered unforecast marginal conditions enroute at night before and made the choice to land rather than press on and I would make the same choice again.

2) I've tried to reduce the risk of a vacuum failure or electrical failure in two ways -- I have an STEC-30 autopilot (electrically driven and integrated with the turn coordinator) to reduce the pilot load on flying partial panel after a vacuum failure. In the case of electrical failure, I carry a handheld nav/com radio and a handheld GPS with a bag full of spare batteries as well as keeping current on hand flying without the autopilot. I know it's not perfect, but with good preflight knowledge of where the nearest VFR conditions are, I feel it's adequate.

3) My thinking is that if I lose my engine in IMC, I'm going to glide to an airport if it's in range. If not, I'm going to trim full aft for the slowest speed possible and if/when I break out of the clouds, aim for the softest spot possible. In other words, I'm going to fly the plane all the way to the crash site.

One more thought about night flying... I no longer fly with passengers at night after a local pilot I know went down in the water after dark near the island I live on and, due to the darkness, was not able to get one of his twin daughters out of the plane before it sank. I'm confident that I can get myself out of a dark airplane, but I'm not comfortable being responsible for getting others out in the dark. I think that would be my rule in a light-twin as well.

-DJ
 

GravityHater

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 12, 2004
Posts
1,168
Total Time
3000
I was thinking of writing a list of "aviation risk factors" from low to high, but the combinations and permutations gets into the hundreds.

So whether or not the risk is too high for me really depends on a subjective evaluation (I'm not big into those risk evaluators that assign numbers to each thing).
I fly night hard imc single piston. But I would really have to look at the situation to fly the same in mountains. Over water, I would prefer to minimize the amount of single engine time if its a piston. Turbine? Let's go!

We all use our experience, our listening to accident reports, our training to decide for ourselves what is riskier for us, on each flight.

The only question that I have is... are we weighing each thing properly? Do we each really know how risky each thing is? Many times we guess at the risk for each factor, and that results in overcautiousness or unreasonable boldness.

day/night
vmc/imc lite/hard imc/lifr
single/twin
piston/turbine
nonKI/FIKI
single vac/electircal systems or redundant systems
flat land/mountains
land/water
surface temps: desert/nominal/arctic
remote areas/farmland/populated areas
pilot very current/weekend warrier
flight plan filed or no flight plan filed. (Doh, how did that get in there?)
 

USMCmech

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 7, 2005
Posts
259
Total Time
700
GravityHater said:
Lowest risk
1watching TV on your sofa
2taking a bath
3the sidewalk on mainstreet
4driving
5hiking up a mountain
Actually, sitting on your sofa will most likely lead to heart disease and a massive heart attack.

People commonly slip and fall in the tub breaking their hip, and a few drownings

Pedestrians are hit by cars all the time

Driving a car kills thousands every year in the USA (and is gradually poulting our planet possibly killing us all)

You can only live for three hours in the wild without adequate shelter or three days without water, don't forget lions or bears who can EAT you!



Now, that was the safe half of the list.

Nobody gets out of this game alive.
 
Last edited:

OrcasC180

Should be OrcasC205 now..
Joined
Dec 27, 2003
Posts
56
Total Time
500+
The only thing worse than death is living in fear of dying.
 

TrafficInSight

mmmm.... doooonuuuut.
Joined
Mar 14, 2004
Posts
613
Total Time
350
That's why I plan to do my instrument rating in a 747-400 ;)


or better yet, a B-52.
 

Lead Sled

Sitt'n on the throne...
Joined
Apr 1, 2004
Posts
2,066
Total Time
> enuf
I've noticed one thing over the years when it comes to single-engine IFR and single-engine night x-c flying - it seems that your comfort level with it is inversely proportional to the amount of experience you have. (Notice that I didn't say flight time.) There was a time in my life when I wouldn't have given much thought to flying single-engine IFR day or night. That was a long time ago. Now days, I'll let the eager, young time-builders have all of that time. About the only SE IFR I'm up to is during the day, enroute, with a solid VFR conditions underneath me.

I know that you can quote statistics all day long but, never the less, you'll have a hard time finding many highly experienced pilots willing to bet their fanny on a single engine (piston or turbine) when it come to heavy IFR or night x-c.

'Sled
 

FN FAL

Freight Dawgs Rule
Joined
Dec 17, 2003
Posts
8,580
Total Time
7,000+
Go look at the numbers...when twins crash in an engine failure related accident, everybody dies, every time.
 

Lead Sled

Sitt'n on the throne...
Joined
Apr 1, 2004
Posts
2,066
Total Time
> enuf
FN FAL said:
Go look at the numbers...when twins crash in an engine failure related accident, everybody dies, every time.
I don't doubt that. I've lost my share of friends in twins. The trick is flying an appropriate twin in an appropriate manor.

'Sled
 

avbug

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 14, 2001
Posts
7,602
Total Time
n/a
Go look at the numbers...when twins crash in an engine failure related accident, everybody dies, every time.
There are no such numbers...it's a myth. It's a myth that's largely perpetuated by a campaign by Richard Collins quite some time ago to publicise the need for more training in light twins. It got blown out of proportion a long time ago, and it's just not true.

Some aircraft have been made into excellent single engine IFR platforms...the Caravan, the PC-12, and so on. Aircraft with extremely reliable, redundant systems, generally flown by very well trained pilots with advanced experience...very different from cloud busting in dad's cessna 150.

I'm with Sled on this one...generally the advocates for single pilot single piston IFR are inexperienced pilots who haven't the background to know better.

Justification. Narcotic of the soul.
 

FN FAL

Freight Dawgs Rule
Joined
Dec 17, 2003
Posts
8,580
Total Time
7,000+
avbug said:
There are no such numbers...it's a myth.
You need to smoke some more crack. First of all, there are no single piston planes certified for IFR.

avbug said:
I'm with Sled on this one...generally the advocates for single pilot single piston IFR are inexperienced pilots who haven't the background to know better.
 

USMCmech

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 7, 2005
Posts
259
Total Time
700
avbug said:
Some aircraft have been made into excellent single engine IFR platforms...the Caravan, the PC-12, and so on.

OK hold the phone.

On the other thread you said you would never fly IFR in a single, now you say that it's OK. What's the real story?
 
Last edited:

FN FAL

Freight Dawgs Rule
Joined
Dec 17, 2003
Posts
8,580
Total Time
7,000+
USMCmech said:
OK hold the phone.

On the other thread you said you would never fly IFR in a single, now you say that it's OK. What's the real story?
I think he forgot to sign out >>>>>it's probably some guy named Bruce just typing stuff randomly under his screen name.

:laugh:
 
Last edited by a moderator:

avbug

Well-known member
Joined
Dec 14, 2001
Posts
7,602
Total Time
n/a
You need to smoke some more crack. First of all, there are no single piston planes certified for IFR.
First you quote false stats, and then come up with a crack like that? No piston single airplanes certified for IFR? Really? You sure about that?

I think we've found our pilot imposter...a whole lot of single engine piston airplanes are certificated for IFR flight, and are legal for IFR flight...hence the topic of this thread. How can you not know that?

As for the personal comments...those are beneath even you. Not by much, but still beneath even your low standard.

On the other thread you said you would never fly IFR in a single, now you say that it's OK. What's the real story?
Do you see me flying a single engine airplane IFR? You do not. There is no inconsistency in this; I said I don't, and go figure...I don't.

Additionally, I never said "it's okay." Don't put words in my mouth.

I also specifically pointed to the Cessna 150 in the thread to which you refer, and if you'll go back and read, I addressed the danger of flying single pilot IFR in an ill equipped light single piston airplane with no auto flight control system, poor nav and radios, failure-prone systems, being flown by inexperienced personnel. Again, no inconsistency. I addressed that point here in noting system redundancy in more advanced singles such as the Caravan and PC-12, as well as greater aggregate pilot experience, typical frequent advanced training, etc.

Hardly a way to substantiate a love for flying the Cessna 150 in the soup.
 

NoPax

NoPax NoMore
Joined
May 25, 2005
Posts
362
Total Time
5250
Totally agree with the comment made about low time inexperienced pilots that don't know any better, with the exception of the many Caravan drivers that have oodles of experience.

I used to fly a 152 in the soup and had many, many problems. It was in my flight instructing days, and in that Cessna 152, I lost the vacuum instruments twice, and electrical once in IMC.

The loss of electrical was more interesting than the no-vacuum flying - which had become routine. My student and I were returning from a long cross country with unforecast marine layer in the South Bay. After loosing electrical, I decided to take her over the ocean so I'd not hit anything, then descend to VMC (about 800') and limp back to an uncontrolled field. And there it sat until it was fixed.

I'm not against single-pilot IFR with no auto-pilot, if it's within your limitations, if its beyond what you can do, or think you can do, there are plenty of instructors out there willing to lend a hand.
 

Moonfly201

Armored Member
Joined
Apr 4, 2004
Posts
95
Total Time
>4300
NoPax said:
I'm not against single-pilot IFR with no auto-pilot, if it's within your limitations, if its beyond what you can do, or think you can do, there are plenty of instructors out there willing to lend a hand.
The no auto-pilot, ill-equipped crowd of single pilot IMC flyers are better than me. IMO a wing-leveler should be considered as minimum equipment before any true nasty weather flying is conducted.

Punching buttons on the GPS, writing down amended clearances, reading approach plates ... normal stuff. Hard to do while keeping the wings level when hand flying. Especially in turbulence.
 

rubicon789

Well-known member
Joined
Nov 9, 2004
Posts
178
Total Time
3000+
I guess freight dog's shouldn't step in here:nuts: :nuts:. Last Time I checked 1/2 mile vis was VFR.:laugh:
 
Top