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Thread: Would you fly IFR without an auto pilot?

  1. #21
    To my way of thinking after many hours in IMC, an autopilot for single pilot IFR flying is indispensable. I feel you are really rolling the dice, especially in situations such as when getting an amended clearance from ATC, having an unruly passage that demands attention and when shooting an approach to minimums. All of these scenarios require either a head down situation or more than just a quick scan off the panel for even a very short time.

  2. #22

    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Wausau, WI
    Quote Originally Posted by Lrrryo View Post

    Need to get your Bonanza back. Nice to see you posting here.

    From FL.....
    Hi, Larry. Can't justify the expense of the Bonanza on my retirement income, and my wife refused to keep paying for the fuel. I sold it in three weeks. I do miss it.

  3. #23
    I've got about a solid 25 hours or so in IMC in my C-150. Never flown with an autopilot. Used one once in a C-172SP. As for IMC in a C-150 -- be careful. The C-150 is not a stable plane and you will get a workout. Stay out of storms and ice.

  4. #24
    Cary's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Fort Collins, CO
    Just zipped through this thread. I've been flying IFR occasionally for 42 years, the majority of that time in airplanes that had no autopilot. The 73 Skylane I trained in, although equipped with most other bells and whistles of the time, had no autopilot. Only one of the 4 airplanes I've owned had an autopilot. None of the airplanes I flew on charter or taught instruments in had autopilots. Even in the few I've flown with autopilots, I haven't used the autopilots except as wing levelers while I looked at a chart. I may have done one or two coupled approaches in training, but never for real. So I don't mind hand-flying in IMC, because the alternative most of the time has been that I couldn't have gone. I've had my present airplane for 13 years, no autopilot, and there have been many hours in IMC in it.

    All that as background, I think a light GA pilot who absolutely relies on the autopilot to the extent that it's a go-no go item for flying in IMC should re-evaluate whether to fly in IMC at all. Autopilots are probably the number one glitch item in light GA airplanes. That means that on any trip, the likelihood of the autopilot failing is greater than the failure of any other item. The pilot absolutely must be prepared at any time to take over.

    Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against autopilots or those who use them. There have been times when I would have liked to have one, especially on longer trips. But I'd never advise anyone to rely on them to work 100% of the time.

    "I have slipped the surly bonds of earth...,
    put out my hand and touched the face of God." J.G. Magee

  5. #25

    Join Date
    Jan 2017
    Currently I fly with an AP. My original plane that I earned my IR in did not have an AP. I flew it several times in IMC for long l flights. I do prefer having the AP and will turn it off in IMC at times to stay in practice.

  6. #26

    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    NW FL
    Cary, you are so right about about unreliable autopilots, especially the old ones. Even the new ones must be constantly monitored. As for flying without one, I recall a trip up the eastern seaboard to Maine in a Cherokee. Ten hours enroute with seven IMC and no AP. I was surprised how fresh I felt on arrival. Lot younger then.

    Remember; we sent young guys with about 200 hours to SE Asia where they flew Hueys through monsoons. Hueys have no AP and have a negative stability. These days, the FAA will not certify a civil helo for IFR unless it has a dual AP installation.

  7. #27

    Join Date
    Aug 2013
    If "George" the autopilot is engaged, then you now have a two pilot cockpit. Consider yourself the autopilot co pilot when it's engaged. 24k hours

    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

  8. #28

    Join Date
    Aug 2020
    Colorado Springs, CO
    I learned to fly with piper 180 and 140s with an instrument rating the 172 before I joined the Air Force as a pilot. I was later a T-38A instructor pilot. None of those aircraft had autopilots. Flying the aircraft trimmed up helps quite a bit as you can scan the cockpit without big deviations in heading, altitude or airspeed. Trim is your friend VMC and especially in IMC. I recently got back in the cockpit after 13-years off while I lived in Europe in GA aircraft. Nice to come back to my roots. I suspect I'll still fly without an AP most of the time even if one is available.
    Tom Nunamaker

  9. #29

    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Cary, I concur. Over five decades flying imc in ASEL, AMEL, Rotorcraft/Helo both with and without autopilots proved to me that they are nice to have. Three attitude gyro failures imc without autopilots, all while solo, and multiple autopilot disconnects proved I could fly the aircraft without them. That's not unique, nor is it bragging. So can every proficient instrument rated pilot. So practice your skills ladies and gentlemen. Or take Cary's advice and don't fly imc until you're proficient with the basic aircraft again please.

  10. #30
    FlyingRon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    NC26 (Catawba, NC)
    As I mentioned earlier, I always practice my approaches twice: once with the autopilot, once without. I want to be sure that if I do fly it with autopilot that I don't get into the "what the **##@ is this thing doing" state.

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