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Equipping Your RV for IFR Flight

It’s not just attitude, performance, and navigation.

Garrett Smith, Calgary, AB

A nice, clean VFR panel installation, by Bob Cutting of Richmond, BC.  Bob is an experienced builder and AIR/ABA inspector who is building his first RV.

(Bob Cutting photo)

Some builders may think that if they have all the necessary instruments, and perhaps a Stormscope, their RV is ready for IFR flight.  I have never flown with Stormscope radar specifically, but I have several thousand hours flying with good quality radar in the Dash-8, and in King Air 100 and 200 aircraft.  I have never seen a radar unit that will point out ice and turbulence!

The radar will ‘paint’ a return from airborne (or ground) water, which will show up as a red, yellow or green blob on the screen in the cockpit display.  Red indicates the highest concentration of water, green the least.  Typically, you expect areas of turbulence and icing if you fly your aircraft into or in close vicinity of these return-producing clouds.  I have flown and picked up a lot of ice in conditions that would not produce a radar return.

Flying through stratus type clouds near the freezing level will produce ice accumulation on an aircraft, and it can be at 14,000 feet, or even higher.  Radar will produce a defined return from more vertical areas of water such as towering cumulus (TCU) and cumulonimbus (CB) clouds, which can provide a very lively ride indeed, as well as plenty of ice.  Stratus, or layer, type clouds tend to produce a less defined return, but still can provide a great deal of ice accumulation with a relatively smooth ride, until the wing stops flying...

Just because you have an aircraft that is equipped with IFR instruments doesn’t mean you have an IFR equipped airplane.  In order to be considered IFR certified, you need to have prop de-ice, pitot/static heat, wing de-ice, tail de-ice, fuel vent heat, windshield heat and probably a few other things I’ve forgotten.  How heavy would your RV be with all that equipment?

The avionics shop will love you if you decide to spend a pile of money buying the latest instruments and navaids, but after all that money you may not be any safer than flying with a basic VFR instrument panel and a map.

[Some of the equipment mentioned here is only required for commercial IFR operation.  But Garrett’s point is well-made:  don’t take IFR operations lightly, especially where icing and turbulence are concerned—Webmaster.]

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Van's Air Force Western Canada Wing is not affiliated in any way with Van's Aircraft Incorporated. Western Canada RVator is not a publication of Van's Aircraft or any other corporation. All products reviewed or mentioned are not necessarily recommended for use by RV builders, but are described for information only. All builder's tips are presented only as a source of information and a forum for exchange and the sharing of ideas and construction methods. No responsibility is assumed, expressed, or implied as to the suitability, accuracy, safety, or approval thereof. Any party using the suggestions, ideas, or examples does so at his or her own risk and discretion and without recourse against anyone. The members of Van's Air Force Western Canada Wing, the editor of the Western Canada RVator, and all authors and contributors are not responsible for any product or builder's tips misuse, incorrect construction, or design failure, nor any other peril.

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