Ever find out that something someone told you was "bad" actually has a good side? I'm quite sure you have. With regard to flying, that concept is "Get-There-Itis." Think about it, every FAA or safety related aviation publication talks about "Get-There-Itis" getting people into trouble. Ok, well, I can agree that is definitely a valid perspective. When a pilot launches an aircraft despite not passing the "IMSAFE" checklist, braving weather for which they are not rated simply to get somewhere...that's bad...and stupid.
But, to the well-trained, appropriately rated and well prepared pilot, "Get-There-Itis" is a gift. It is the best thing that could happen to them. Properly reframed and redefined, "Get-There-Itis" has become a "mission." How many folks fly around just burning gas and then flying to find a place to buy cheap gas to burn? I know I've spent plenty of time doing that! The problem is...it gets boring after a while. As pilots, we fly just for the flying, but nothing beats having a mission to fulfill. The greatest benefit is that we gain much more learning from a mission experience than from flying around burning gas just to fly.
A mission can be created for just about any reason. The best missions are where two or more pilots collaborate with each other to plan and finance a "flight with a purpose". The purpose can be as simple as a flight to an airport-based museum or a business visit.
IMC missions are particularly challenging and consequently quite gratifying when completed successfully. Most significantly, in the winter one has ice to deal with and in the summer, convectivity. But ice and convectivity are not necessarily reasons to scrub a mission. The idea is not to deliberately fly in icing conditions or stay there when you encounter icing the same way you wouldn't fly into a storm cell to "see what it's like." If you fly IFR in IMC, you're likely to eventually make some decisions regarding ice or convectivity, otherwise you're not really flying in IMC more than a few days a year.
Flying is like any other challenging game such as golf. In golf, people do not cancel their tee times because sand traps, obstacles and particularly difficult holes exist. On the other hand, golfers seek the most challenging courses as they become more skilled. As pilots become more skilled and proficient, the best thing they can do for their flying is to seek out challenging missions.
Take my friend Lance for that matter. Here's a guy who somewhat recently caught the flying bug, got his private certificate, rolled immediately into his IFR rating and has some true cross-country missions to fulfill. This guy is serious...and loving it. For various reasons, his exposure to IMC was limited during his IFR training, so at first he was a bit apprehensive to fly in IMC. I don't blame him. If that's you're story...get some additional training with a qualified instructor who will fly with you in the soup. That's what Lance did. He got additional instruction in actual IMC conditions witnessing inadvertent icing, convectivity, rain, snow and got his procedures nailed down until he was ready to jump in on his own.
So what did he do next??? Jump into IMC with both wings! Lance took off from Illinois to Florida through a winter overcast well informed and did not find any ice. On the return flight, he departed warm, sunny Florida to pass through a warm front where he successfully used the onboard equipment, and his eyes while between layers (actual photos as seen in this article) with help from ATC to circumnavigate the convective activity.
After that challenge, Lance was gifted with the ultimate experience he had trained for...an LPV approach to minimums at his destination KARR - Aurora Municipal Airport...AT NIGHT! Needless to say, he executed flawlessly and landed successfully. There you have a real-life and recent story illustrating "Get-There-Itis" gone "good." And that, my friends, is the right way to do it.
If you're a VFR pilot, stay VFR at all times. Keep safe and legal margins for VFR flight. There are many occasions where you can remain VFR and circumnavigate clearly defined weather. If you're an IFR pilot, get the proper training in the real weather until you're very fluent with the process. Find the best instructor you can and pay him or her their going rate to get the experience. Most often, you get what you pay for...and remember...it is your own life that you're saving (not to mention your passengers).
In the end, you will need a mission...the positive pressure of "Get-There-Itis." You will have to be on your own as pilot-in-command, do the research and make good decisions. Then, you will have to launch remembering that icing and storms are just the sand traps and water hazards of IMC skies...and it is your mission to arrive at the planned destination or alternate SAFELY within your capabilities.
My friend Lance, I'll say again, did it right and he was rewarded for it. He got to see the Shuttle Discovery depart for mission STS-133, he gained confidence flying in potential icing conditions, around convective activitiy and conducting a successful approach in night low-IFR conditions. That's about as good as it gets for an accomplished IFR pilot with positive "Get-There-Itis"!
* All photos provided by Lance Corlis, Master IFR Pilot and BMF.
Albert Zorn is a NAFI Associate Master Certified Flight Instructor (CFII) and Cirrus Standardized Instructor (CSIP) at Chicago Executive Airport (KPWK) specializing in advanced glass cockpit avionics training, actual IMC training, and Cirrus Aircraft transition training.