Instrument Training Hazard


In the May issue of AOPA Flight Training Magazine, David Jack Kenny presents “Don’t See, Can’t Avoid.” His article describes the results of an Air Safety Institute (ASI) study on advanced training accidents. ASI noted a finding that 20% of fatalities during advanced training occurred during instrument training. Most frequent cause was midair collision.

Hold on . . . Just one more stat. Looking at all advanced training midairs, at least one pilot was under a hood on 55% of the flights. 

I’ve been both a student and instructor on many an instrument flight and cannot think of a time when there wasn’t an observer sitting behind the pilot under the hood to provide eyes on that side of the aircraft. The caveat here is military flight training has a large number of students who do not have to concern themselves with paying for or scheduling flights. This is all done for them. 

For a large flight school, military or civilian, observers are critical for this type of instrument training in airspace with a high density of VFR aircraft performing a wide variety of events. Additionally, putting two students in the aircraft (one training and one observing each leg) can improve efficiency by getting two events out of one instructor and one aircraft in a single extended period with an out-and-in flight. 

For the independent student working toward their instrument ticket, using an observer has the safety and efficiency benefits discussed above, but also other advantages:

  1. Exposure to more than just their local airport through an out-and-in flight 
  2. If students can pair up, it may lead to joint study
  3. Observer can listen to the instuctor teach the other student without the pressure of being at the controls
Students do not have to be at the same point in their flying education. For example, one student can conduct a VFR navigation flight on the way out and the other can fly an instrument flight on the return. 
While there are challenges, both instructors and students should pursue having an observer along for instrument training flights conducted under VFR. Safety and efficiency benefits are likely to make it worth any trouble it takes to make it happen.
Video of 2009 mid air collision over the Hudson River obtained via AvWeb YouTube Channel.  

What say you?