Your instrument training tips

04-348_IFRTrainingSince many pilots start instrument training almost immediately after completing their private pilot certificate, I wondered if our Facebook friends had any tips for those about to take the plunge. Turns out, you do—probably based on personal experience. As with almost any aviation topic, there were some divergent views.  Here’s a sampling:

  1. “Learn paper! Get the iPad out of the cockpit until you can master paper plates!”—Patrick Smith, seconded by Jim Chambers.
  2. On the other hand, “Use what you’re going to use in reality. This isn’t primary training anymore so if you’re going to use an iPad for charts use it in training. That way you won’t be fumbling your first time out alone with your orginazatiom of electronic charts. Learn your GPS, it will save your butt in training and in real life.”—Miranda Noble Rydstrom
  3. Get experience flying in actual instrument conditions—Anne Scheer Wright, seconded by Steven Bristow, Bill Green, Sam Grice, and Brian Harman.
  4. “As an instrument instructor for Army flight school, I would encourage instrument students to focus on their basic instrument (BI) skills for getting too focused on the advanced (AI) procedures such as departures, approaches, etc. If your BI is bad, your AI will be even worse.”—Wylie Mathis Sr., seconded by Mackey Simbajon, Luca Simioni, and Cm Thrasher.
  5. Use a simulator to help you practice approaches.—Daryl Sweeney, seconded by Brad Rodriguez, Jim Chambers, Chad Baker, and Alejo Echevarria.

Some had very specific suggestions for choosing the right CFII.

  • “Find an instructor who has experience outside of instructing. Someone who has worked as a Part 135 pilot and has flown a great deal in the ATC system.”—Collin Hughes
  • “A few things: 1. Make sure you are working with a syllabus that your instructor initials after completing tasks satisfactorily. 2. Interview the instructor to make sure he’s a good fit. 3. Ask the instructor if he is working as a CFI in order to build time to head off to a corporate or airline job. If he is, ask if he is currently interviewing and where he is in the process. 4. Is he willing to use a simulator to accomplish part of your training. 5. How can he integrate the use of a home simulator, like FSX into your training.”—Kevin Jarchow

There were many more suggestions, and you can read them all on our Facebook page. In the meantime, I’ll close with this very smart advice from Damian M. Campayo, because it happens to tie in brilliantly with an article in the upcoming issue.—Jill W. Tallman

  • “Keep money in reserve. You’ll need it to keep your currency!”

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  • Luca Simioni

    Great tips and initiative, learning IFR can be a real challenge without some kind of guidance.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Dan Unger-DPE

    Go out and get your 50 hours PIC cross country time first. Newly minted private pilots need to gain some experience on some really long cross countries. Deal with controllers and weather from the VFR side. Decision making without supervision. There is a host of experience you will again by filling this requirement first.

  • Dan Unger-DPE

    Oh by the way, you can log some hood time while on those XC’s. Sharpen up your basic instrument skills. ( Remember your safety pilot).

  • Elliott Arthur

    A CFI for over 22 years now, I have worked with a lot of pilots learning to fly under IFR. Pilots who do not have a solid knowledge and skills base in the airplane they using for the training usually have a lot of difficulty learning IFR flying. None of the laws of physics and aerodynamics that applied to VFR flying change under IFR. Most of the rules of thumb you learned, or should have learned, as a student pilot still apply. So, relax, fly the airplane, and keep your basic flying skills sharp. Mr. Unger was correct in that the reason for the 50 hour X/c prerequisite is to improve your basic skill set, as well as flight planning and likely as not weather recognition and avoidance. Get most of it done before you even start instrument training. I usually require a student have at least 40 hours X/c PIC time before starting IFR.

    The biggest problem however is infrequent training. So, have the money in your savings or on your credit card before starting training. Schedule a minimum of 3 lessons a week or more. You’ll forget less between lessons and spend less money overall.

    Find a professional instructor who has at least 100 hours of “Actual” instrument experience. Make sure that instructor has experience in the airplane you intend to fly and with the avionics in that airplane. Actual experience in IMC in that airplane would be even better. Instruction using at least a Basic Aviation Training Device will be less expensive and time saving compared to the same training in the airplane. Remember that the goal is not to learn to fly the simulator/training device, but to maximize learning procedures such as holding pattern entries and approaches. Don’t let the different feel of the training device frustrate and discourage you. I usually use the autopilot feature to let the student concentrate on the procedure.

    After you get the rating, remember that currency and proficiency are two vastly different things. To be safe, you need to commit to flying under IFR as much as humanly possible, and decline the “visual approach” in favor of a practice approach every chance you get. Currency is a legality, Proficiency is a matter of life and death.

    No matter what, instrument training should make you a far more skilled pilot, and that is a good thing.