Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Expand Your Iceberg

Plane & Pilot takes on AFIT’s 10-day instrument-rating program

When the day came to begin training, I arrived at the airport loaded a bit like Robert N. Buck in his book, North Star Over My Shoulder, where he recounts reporting for his first airline job with a typewriter in a suitcase. My instructor, John Templeton, was familiar to me from his emails. We shook hands—I immediately liked him—and dug right into ground school. Outside, a virulent snowstorm grounded everything for hundreds of miles.

If there's one "secret" to the AFIT program, it's their instructors. Montalte is exclusive and hires only the best. He makes no apologies that his instructors sport gray hair. The average age of an AFIT Instructor is 55. They average 8,000 to 20,000 hours logged flight time and 2,500 to 8,000 hours of logged instrument time. Each individual is handpicked, and each instructs because he or she genuinely loves teaching. There are no time-builders here.

Templeton is exactly the right fit for me. His 40 years in the air include flying for Part 121 and 135 carriers and giving more than 2,000 hours of flight instruction. Templeton owns his own taildragger—a Maule—and specializes in crosswinds, technical and mountain flying. He tows gliders during the summers, and has a background that includes flying turboprops full of river-rafters to the Grand Canyon. "I bring a toolbox of things to help you learn," he says as we walk the icy path to the FBO. "My job is to figure out which tool works best for you."

In the pressure-cooker environment of IFR training, the instructor becomes teacher, life coach, motivator and mentor. He or she has the unenviable responsibility of making an instrument pilot out of a variety of aviators. It's a relationship unlike any other, one that transcends social niceties. To digest all that's stuffed into your brain, you have to be open with the instructor.


There's a cliché about pilots: We love our gadgets and gear. But training for the instrument rating was one situation in which having the right gear made a huge difference. When you spend six to eight hours in an airplane working hard on complex tasks and new skills, the pressure is on, and anything that relieves that pressure is critical. I found in this experience that certain things work and others don't. Here's a list—based on my own opinion—of the gear that worked for me.
View Limiting Device Viban visor
You'll use this item more than anything else. Viban wins on several fronts. First, the black color is key. Other devices are white or have a "foggy" appearance. This creates a distracting white highlight that attracts your eyes—not so the Viban.
Ground School Course King Schools
Knowledge Test course
Practical Test course
There are other courses available that have newer and fancier graphics, but nothing beats the King courses. Easy to understand, fun and packed with tips. I used the online version.
Headset Quiet Technologies Halo
There's not a clamping headset out there that I can wear for six hours a day. Unbelievably comfortable and light (less than an ounce!), the Halo performed flawlessly. For $359, it's a steal.
Flight Planning/ Charts iPad with ForeFlight
All I can say is, "Wow." ForeFlight made the oral exam easy by letting me show the examiner weather briefs, approach plates, IFR low-altitude en route charts, the A/FD, AIM and all my flight planning in one place, and up-to-the-second. A must-have for instrument pilots.
Books FAA Instrument Flying Handbook (FAA-H-8083-15B)
Gleim Aviation Weather and Weather Services
ASA Oral Exam Guide—Instrument
• Excellent on all fronts. Know this book and you'll pass the written and oral.
• The Gleim book should be required reading for every pilot. You'll need to know how to read these charts and reports.
• The ASA Oral Exam Guide was my bible for two months. It's an excellent overview of knowledge for the oral exam.
Flight Bag Sporty's Flight Gear Mission Bag
I needed something small enough to fit behind the Cessna 172's seats, but big enough to hold all my IFR stuff. This bag was ideal. I couldn't think of any way to make it better, other than including a place for my big yoke clip.
Exam Prep Aviation Seminars two-day course
Although this wasn't required, it proved invaluable. The seminar gave me current test information and helped cement the concepts I learned in the King course. By taking the seminar, I feel I improved my score by a good margin.

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