Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Beyond The Checkride

Advanced training means new skills, reduced insurance premiums and renewed passion

So now what? You've earned the private certificate and are happily amassing flight time with all kinds of aerial adventures. You've given every friend, relative, and passerby a ride around the patch, and maybe even flown some interstate cross-countries in a variety of airplanes. You feel more comfortable with flying and are considering increasing your growing skill set. You probably went into aviation because you loved it, and not because you want to make it a career. What's next?

There are a variety of reasons for seeking advanced training. In an ideal world, all of us would grab an instructor every few months and do all the things that strike fear in us: crosswind landings, over-water or night flying, spins and stalls, short and unimproved fields, mountain flying and some really unusual attitudes. Logic dictates that doing this would make us better pilots—and it will.

But in the non-ideal world, finances and time hold us back from such pursuits. The FAA, however, doesn't care about either time or money, and mandates that every two years, anybody who wants to continue to act as Pilot in Command (PIC) needs to have a flight review. To comply, many pilots seek out their trusted CFI friend, go for a $200 cheeseburger and call it a flight review. But doing so cheats us out of the opportunity to learn something new. And learning something new is the best reason to seek additional training in aviation.

Whether you need to satisfy a flight review or are looking to become a better, safer pilot, there's a cornucopia of awesome, useful training that won't only improve your skills, but will paint a smile on your face wider than the butcher's-dog grin you had when you soloed. Pilots say there are few things more satisfying than mastering a new flying skill, rating or airplane, and anybody who has ever looked longingly at a seaplane or warbird, or laughed in joy through a loop or primary roll, will vouch for that.

If you plan to fly a pressurized airplane above 25,000 feet MSL, you'll need a high-altitude endorsement.
Head In The Clouds
Easily the most complex rating, but also the most useful, the instrument rating will make you a better pilot in many ways. The name of the game in instrument training is precision, and the training for the rating will teach you precision like no other. Many pilots mistake the fact that the instrument rating isn't designed to let you fly in horrible weather, but to enable you to make better weather decisions, and to enable you to get into or out of a terminal area when the weather is less than VFR.

The tried-and-true method of earning an instrument rating is to spend several months to a year or more (the national average is 70 hours) churning through the requirements of the rating until you've absorbed all the concepts and can demonstrate the various flying skills necessary to earn the rating. While that method works, there also are a few specialized programs like AFIT, American Flyers and others that offer an intensive, short-duration course (typically 10 days) designed to allow you to earn your instrument rating.

The instrument ticket is so important that nearly all insurance companies offer a substantial discount on premiums because their research has shown that pilots who earn the rating are better and safer, and are equipped to make better aeronautical decisions.


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