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Getting an Instrument Rating: Perspective
One of the guys asked about getting his instrument rating recently, so I provided some guidance that I thought I would share with the rest of you. This is not an all-encompassing treatise on getting your instrument ticket, but it does include some things to think about before embarking on what has to be one of the hardest ratings to earn. I also talk about getting IFR qualified here in a previous post: http://iflyblog.com/2012/12/08/the-instrument-rating-demystified/
There is no doubt that the instrument rating will make you a better pilot. It takes what you already know about guiding an aircraft through the sky and forges that into a mastery of aircraft control, three-dimensional situational awareness, and multi-tasking that would make most mortals run for the hills.
Obtaining, maintaining, and using an instrument rating is not for the faint of heart. Consider it the graduate level course for aviators.
It’s all in your head
As a practical matter, the instrument rating is very ‘cerebral’ and you’ll spend more time on the academics then almost anything else.
While I’m not sure what kind of IFR aircraft you’ll have access to, here’s some thoughts: Modern IFR trainers (glass) are more capable, but they are also much more complex. If you train on conventional instruments you’ll be more challenged when it comes to the physical instrument scan and fighting off vertigo, but you don’t get the experience managing the modern avionics. There is no right answer, other than I would attempt to train in what you think you will be flying. If you plan to buy a glass cockpit airplane, try to train with glass and vice versa. Hope that makes sense.
To start the process, like I said, hit the books first. You don’t want to be out there having your instructor spoon-feeding the material that you could have learned on your couch when the hobbs meter wasn’t running. I would even consider doing the written before starting. The instrument is a lot of ‘head work’ so I would make a small investment in a home PC sim set up like Mike wrote about on the blog
. It allows you stay fresh when you can’t fly. In my opinion, sims are not as useful for VFR, but they really works good for IFR if you approach it correctly (no pun intended).
Tips and traps
Once you start training, try to stay consistent. Fly at least once a week if not more; time out of the cockpit is stepping backward. Same for after you get your rating, staying proficient is something you have to focus on.
Don’t get frustrated if it’s hard in the beginning, and in the middle, and in the end; behind the CFI ticket it is the second hardest to get.
Be a good student. Your instructor will appreciate it if you are willing to do the hard work to make it happen. Having a good attitude is key; you should strive for perfection, but don’t let frustration block your progress. Also, don’t settle if you and the instructor don’t “click”, it’s nothing personal to switch to another IP. Sometimes personalities differ and you need to make sure you have the right guy or gal for the job.
If you have mental block on a certain procedure or concept, have your instructor explain it differently or read different texts. I bought 3 instrument books before I found one that explained things in a way that resonated with me. Now with the internet, a quick search will reveal hundreds of different perspectives on a subject, one of those is bound to make the light bulb come on.
The best IFR pilots are methodical. They think through what they are about to do and they do everything possible to prepare. Some of the most thorough pilots I have flown with are private pilots with instrument ratings. If you plan to fly in the clouds, you have to take it very seriously and put on your game face. Doesn’t mean you can’t have fun, but you should approach it professionally.
Hope this helps. I’m sure it will spur some follow-on questions, so feel free to hit me up.
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