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Thread: Would you fly IFR without an auto pilot?

  1. #1

    Would you fly IFR without an auto pilot?

    We're talking about that subject this week, on IMC Radio- Plane Talk. What would you do? Any alternatives? Options? How good are your seat of the pilot flying skills? Would you do well with a systems failure?

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by Howie KMVY View Post
    We're talking about that subject this week, on IMC Radio- Plane Talk. What would you do? Any alternatives? Options? How good are your seat of the pilot flying skills? Would you do well with a systems failure?
    There would be a difference between hand flying knowing that your autopilot is there to help you when you will need it but... how about going IMC knowing that your autopilot is INOP. Would you still do it?

  3. #3
    Mike Switzer's Avatar
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    I got my IR in a 172M with no auto pilot. I generally only used an auto pilot on long trips to maintain heading easier.

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    Auburntsts's Avatar
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    Maybe. My personal minimums are that for lauching into widespread LIFR at either origin or destination the autopilot is a go/no-go item. For currency I hand fly every other approach but my comfort level dictates that for travel I takeoff with all of my tools in the tool kit or I wait for a situation that gives me more options. YMMV........
    Last edited by Auburntsts; 02-11-2016 at 05:24 PM.
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    Interesting question. I flew my first airplane five years, many trips, many hours IMC & IFR with an Escort 110, KX145, and marker receiver. No xpdr, no intercom, no audio panel, no weather display, no moving map, no autopilot. I thought I had it made because I had TWO radios! The aircraft I trained in had only one VOR, one comm. Lots of people routinely did the same. Up to the mid-50s people did it Pt91 without gyro horizons & gyro compasses. Is the fact that people seriously ask this no-autopilot question the reason why the FAA is putting emphasis on evaluating the hand-flying skill of aviators flying aircraft which have autopilot installed? Hmmmm..............progress!

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike M View Post
    Is the fact that people seriously ask this no-autopilot question the reason why the FAA is putting emphasis on evaluating the hand-flying skill of aviators flying aircraft which have autopilot installed? Hmmmm..............progress!
    What, no fancy moving map display for my autopilot to follow?! You expect me to fly fix-to-fix by hand by interpreting needles and DME and estimating headings to get there?! Definitely lost skills. On more than one occasion, I've flown 9 hours across the Atlantic into marginal destination weather with an inoperative autopilot. Not fun, but doable. You'll sleep well afterwards! (I'm definitely a dinosaur.)

  7. #7
    FlyingRon's Avatar
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    Much as I love my autopilot, I believe the biggest contributor to IFR safety is indeed the moving map display. It takes an incredible amount of mental load off the pilot even in partial panel operations.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by FlyingRon View Post
    Much as I love my autopilot, I believe the biggest contributor to IFR safety is indeed the moving map display.
    Agree! It's a tremendous aid to situational awareness.

    More thoughts after rereading my previous post #6.... I didn't intend to demean technically advanced aircraft, but to stress the importance of maintaining the necessary skill and confidence to fly without those advanced capabilities. I recently rode in the back seat with a couple of friends on a 250 mile flight in marginal VFR weather. They punched the destination in a portable GPS, took off, and followed the purple line to the destination. The didn't have any paper charts or other backup navigation plan. They simply blindly flew on without any idea what they would have done if the battery operated GPS would have failed.

    I know I'm going way off topic. My point is a pilot must maintain proficiency and confidence in the basic tasks as well as staying proficient in managing the autopilot, moving map display, radio management interfaces, and other modern cockpit conveniences. I wouldn't want to give any of those things up to go back to the days of needle, ball, airspeed and dead reckoning, but I'm confident I could safely complete the mission without them.

  9. #9
    Mayhemxpc's Avatar
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    My answer is, like most things, "It depends." Long cross country (over 150 nm) with lots of IMC expected, it is a personal requirement. An hour total flight time would probably be fine without it (which is pretty much saying that has been my practice.) All things considered, an IFR trip of, say less than 150nm, and I might not even switch the AP on. But…as Ron pointed out, the moving map is a major factor to being able to do that. Shooting an approach the AP is more of a convenience than anything else. Between the GNS530 and Foreflight on the iPad and I have the SA I need to keep the airplane on course and glide path. Also note that in the O-2A I have a stable yet responsive platform to aviate. (Although it does have a tendency to rain in the cockpit.)
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  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Howie KMVY View Post
    We're talking about that subject this week, on IMC Radio- Plane Talk. What would you do? Any alternatives? Options? How good are your seat of the pilot flying skills? Would you do well with a systems failure?

    I have done it. I would prefer an auto pilot, but it is not needed. It would depend on how long I was going to be actual IFR and if I had someone with me.
    But the short answer is yes, I have done it.
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