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8 Worst-Case IFR Emergencies To Prepare For

If you have an instrument rating or are training for one, here are some emergencies you DON'T want happening on your next IFR flight...

1) Inadvertent Thunderstorm Encounter

Embedded thunderstorms are a real hazard to IFR aircraft flying in the clouds. Misreading radar imagery or not having an IFR capable radar altogether can lead to serious problems in embedded weather. Slow to turbulence penetration speed, strap in, and exit as quickly as possible. Use ATC's help to get you out of the storms if you don't have adequate equipment onboard.


2) Inadvertent Icing Encounter

No matter how much planning you do, the unpredictable nature of icing conditions might catch you off-guard. If you fly into ice and don't have anti/de-icing equipment, change altitude, fly to an area clear of visible moisture, or change heading into an area clear of icing conditions.


3) Precipitation Static

Precipitation static occurs when accumulated static electricity discharges from exterior surfaces of the aircraft. Resulting problems range from serious, such as complete loss of VHF communications and erroneous magnetic compass readings, to the annoyance of high-pitched audio squealing. Before you depart, make sure all of your static wick dischargers are installed!


4) Generator Failure

Once a generator failure is detected, pilots must reduce electrical load on the battery and land as soon as practical. Depending on electrical load and condition of the battery, sufficient power may be available for an hour or more of flight or for only a matter of minutes. You should be familiar with systems requiring electricity to run and which continue to operate without power.


5) Instrument Failure

Aircraft control must be maintained while the pilot identifies the failed components and expedite cross-check including all flight instruments. The problem may be individual instrument failure or a system failure affecting several instruments. ATC should be notified of the problem and, if necessary, declare an emergency before the situation deteriorates beyond the ability to recover.


6) Pitot/Static System Failure

A pitot or static system failure can also cause erratic and unreliable instrument indications. When a static system problem occurs, it affects the airspeed indicator, altimeter, and VSI. Blocked pitot tubes have a whole series of errors depending on where the blockage occurs.

7) Loss Of Situational Awareness

Distractions, unusual or unexpected events, complacency, high workload, unfamiliar situations, and inoperative equipment all lead to a loss of SA. While this might not seem like a traditional "emergency," it's serious business flying IFR in the clouds or around terrain.


8) Inadvertent Flight Into IMC

VFR into IMC isn't just a problem for non-instrument rated pilots. Imagine you're flying a circling approach and fly into an unexpected layer of clouds, taking away your visual reference of the airport. This is a perfect example of inadvertent flight into IMC and it can lead to a whole group of hazards like CFIT, disorientation, etc.


What are some other worst-case emergencies for IFR pilots? Tell us in the comments below.

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and an Embraer 145 First Officer for a regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018, holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525), and is a former pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He's the author of articles, quizzes and lists on Boldmethod every week. You can reach Swayne at, and follow his flying adventures on his YouTube Channel.

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