Flying into bad weather is the first thing every pilot is taught to avoid, however inadvertently finding yourself in a bad weather and low visibility situation can be  one of the biggest threats a helicopter crew faces.

To help pilots navigate that threat, Airbus Helicopters Inc. offers an advanced safety course that seeks to prepare operators should they ever encounter inadvertent instrument meteorological conditions (IIMC).

“Weather changes fast. It’s clear one minute and the next you’re socked in with fog,” said Corporal Eric Jez, a pilot with the Dallas Police Department.

Inadvertent Instrument Meteorological Conditions describes certain weather conditions, such as thick fog or heavy clouds, which require pilots to fly primarily by reference to instruments rather than exterior visual cues. Although rare, the sudden onset of IIMC and loss of visibility can cause pilots to become disoriented and lose control of the aircraft.

Pilots from all segments, including law enforcement, emergency medical services, oil and gas, and private operators, can benefit from the course taught at Airbus Helicopters Inc.’s headquarters in Grand Prairie, Texas. The two-day class includes both ground instruction and simulator training.

Simulation is conducted in an Airbus AS350 Full Flight Simulator, but the course is not model specific, so pilots who fly other helicopter models are still perfect candidates for the course.  The simulator can be customized to accommodate various settings and provide realistic scenarios for all operators.

“IIMC can be a scary emergency, but it can also be managed very well in the cockpit through proper emergency procedures” said Will Fulton, head of marketing for Airbus Helicopters Inc. “This course is an invaluable resource to all pilots, regardless of their experience.”

Head of Training Lindsay Cunningham said the comprehensive course teaches pilots how to avoid IIMC while also giving them insight into how they would respond should they ever encounter such conditions.

 In reality, the course is designed to teach avoidance. And then in the unfortunate event that you actually do experience IIMC, it gives you the skills and confidence to recover from an IIMC encounter successfully.

Jez said he would encourage all pilots to participate in Airbus Helicopters Inc.’s IIMC training. 

“No one plans to go into IIMC. That’s why it’s called inadvertent - you don’t plan on it,” he said. “But when you go into it, it’s not long before you’re completely lost. That’s why it’s so important to have muscle memory and a clear plan to stay ahead of the aircraft.” 

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