16 November 1990

Beware of mixing IFR and VFR

May 28 and November 16, 1990

This is another one for instrument pilots. Any time you fly, especially IFR, it is important to obey the flight rules. Most of them are reasonable and are there for our safety. In May I was approaching Davenport, Iowa, and in November I was approaching Texarkana, Arkansas. Both days I flew from Middletown through instrument weather into severe clear weather. Davenport and Texarkana are near and in ARSAs (now Class C airspace), respectively. Both times I had been told to expect the visual approach, and then was given a clearance to descend from 12,000 to 4,000 feet at my discretion.

At the appropriate time I began normal descents, planning to arrive at the airports at traffic pattern altitude (about 2,000 feet, both airports). Six miles from each airport, passing through 3,000 feet, the controller inquired, "400WB, say altitude."

Each time I realized I had busted my last clearance by more than 1,000 feet. Obviously I did not learn from the first mistake. Lucky for me I was dealing with a 'kinder and gentler' FAA . A simple phone call to the controlling agency bought me forgiveness. If you are on an IFR flight plan, and you are expecting a visual approach, do not descend through your last assigned altitude before you are cleared for the approach!

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