Plane & Pilot
Friday, February 1, 2008

New Instrument Rating?


Now what?


instrumentCongratulations! I heard that you called from the municipal airport to say that you passed your instrument checkride. Plus, I understand that your instructor made sure you got time in the clouds during your training and you shot some real approaches to minimums. You received good training and now you have the thinking pilot’s rating. Well done.
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instrumentCongratulations! I heard that you called from the municipal airport to say that you passed your instrument checkride. Plus, I understand that your instructor made sure you got time in the clouds during your training and you shot some real approaches to minimums. You received good training and now you have the thinking pilot’s rating. Well done.

I advise you to please do two things: give your instructor an IOU for a bottle of champagne and schedule a session of recurrent training for six months from now. Set aside a full morning or afternoon. No, I don’t think she’ll be surprised that you want to schedule recurrent training with her. She keeps standing appointments with a lot of her former students for recurrent training.

Right now, you know your instrument procedures well. The last few times you’ve been flying the airplane, you’ve easily held your altitude, heading and speed to tighter parameters than the FAA requires, and you’ve kept the needles pretty well centered on your approaches. I know your instructor; she wouldn’t have sent you for your checkride if you weren’t able to perform better than what the FAA requires.

cloudy
After earning an instrument rating, it’s important to stay current. Scheduling recurrent training with an instructor will keep your skills sharp and help you stay safe in the clouds.
Here’s the reality: Unless you take action, your skills are going to deteriorate. Instrument flight is like everything else we do: If we don’t do it regularly, the skill erodes. What’s worse is that our ability to self-evaluate also erodes, so we get worse and don’t realize it. That’s why I want you to set up some recurrent training. I want you to make it a habit. After all, you’ve been taking dual to improve your skills; you might as well continue doing so, just with a little more time between sessions.

Go do what you’re now legal to do—fly instruments. File IFR every time you fly somewhere. Doing so will rapidly increase your comfort level. When you’re on a cross-country flight, you’ll have time to relax a bit and listen to the pros talk with ATC. I know you’ve read the AIM, but listen to the pros and see what you can pick up as sort of a graduate education. The really good ones say what needs to be said clearly and in the minimum number of words. They don’t waste time with useless stuff. The controller knows they’re there.

Go fly actual IFR when it’s VFR underneath and file for an altitude that will put you in the clouds. You have some time in the clouds; go get some more under conditions that allow you a good way out if there’s any problem. Then make some flights where you have to shoot an approach to get in, but only if there’s a wide-open alternate available. Get used to the sound the rain makes on the windshield and how the clouds get much darker as you descend toward the bases, especially if the ceiling is pretty low. Learn about that puckery feeling you get in your entrails when you’re making an approach so that you aren’t surprised by it when you find yourself shooting an approach down to minimums on a flight where the forecast said it was going to be VFR.




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