|Flying's Robert Goyer hosts an IMC Club gathering at AirVenture. (photo by Dennis Biela)
By James Wynbrandt
August 3, 2013 - It may be CAVU here at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, but instrument conditions prevail daily at the Hartzell Propeller IFR Proficiency Center (Exhibit 488), on the flightline just south of Phillips 66 Plaza, this year's headquarters for the IMC Club International. Formed two years ago, the IMC Club's goal is "to help improve proficiency among instrument-rated pilots," Chairman Steve Sullivan told AirVenture Today.
The organization now has 2,000 members in 70 chapters across the country, who gather for monthly meetings where an IFR flight scenario is presented, each containing several decision points.
"It's like organized hangar flying for instrument pilots," Sullivan said, noting that the decisions presented have no right or wrong answers. "The scenarios are analyzed in guided group discussion, so it enables people of all experience levels to share their experience and opinions - and you know pilots are not shy about expressing their opinions." (Information about the chapter locations is available on the group's website, www.IMCClubs.org.)
The IMC Club has been presenting such scenarios throughout the week at the IFR Proficiency Center in daily "IFR Brain Teaser & Luncheon" gatherings, featuring guest hosts including air show ace Mike Goulian, Goyer, and EAA's own Mac McClellan.
The lively discussion the scenarios provoke was exemplified at one of the daily sessions here, involving an IFR departure from Oshkosh in which a fuel problem occurred shortly after takeoff. Should the pilot return to OSH, in IMC conditions, or proceed across Lake Michigan in VFR weather?
"Literally half said, 'It's a no-brainer: Turn around and don't attempt to cross the lake.' The other half said, 'It's a no-brainer: Continue to VFR weather.'"
But the primary target member of the IMC Club isn't the experienced instrument-rated pilot, but "weekend fliers" who rarely use their tickets, Sullivan said. "We want to inspire these people to fly in the system more, and create safer, more efficient pilots." According to the IMC Club, 70 percent of instrument pilots don't fly in the system.
Sullivan emphasizes that the scenarios presented at chapter meetings aren't all about tragedies in the making.
"We don't want to be the death and disaster prevention organization," he said. "We want to support the joy of flying and the challenge of flying in the system, and the satisfaction people get when they do it well."
After all, he concluded, "There's something really satisfying about shooting a really good approach."