New to instrument
By Chris Hope, Master CFI - Looking
back, I realize that my transition to becoming an instrument pilot was so much
easier than what most of my students go through, and so much easier than for
most new instrument pilots. When I attended
USAF Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT), I already had a Private Pilot’s
license. I received the same instrument
training in the T-37 and T-38 that all USAF students received. And then I was assigned to an Air Force
squadron to fly the Lockheed C-141 cargo aircraft.
was not wild about the assignment. Like
all new military pilots, I felt that I was the service’s best fighter
pilot. Or, at least I would be as soon
as I finished my F-4 training. But even
then I realized that I was not as good at instrument flying as I needed to
be. And I knew that an assignment to the
Pacific northwest, flying all over the world, would give me an opportunity to
hone those skills.
the opportunities came in the best possible way. In addition to the standard ILS that ended
many of our flights, I flew ADF circling approaches into Navy and Marine bases
tucked into little seaports. I flew
radar approaches (GCA) to minimums. I
flew ILS approaches, Category II and III to touchdown, both manually and fully
coupled to the autopilot and auto-throttles.
I made takeoffs where we could only see one set of runway lights. And the best part of this experience is that during
my tenure as a copilot in this real-world flying, I had a pilot with me who had
gone through all of this many times. So,
whether he flew (it was always a “he” back then) and I co-piloted, or I flew
and he co-piloted, I was secure in the knowledge that an experienced someone
had my back.
let’s compare that to the training and transition that most civilian instrument
pilots receive. Part 61.65 requires 40
hours of instrument experience, including 15 hours of actual training. For most students, this becomes 40 hours of
training, about nearly all with a hood, but maybe two or three hours in actual
weather. And then, we instructors send
our students off to a flight examiner who again puts a hood on them and watches
and evaluates. And then, at the end of
that ordeal, pronounces them fit to fly in the weather.
about a month later our new instrument pilot has an opportunity(?) to fly a
cross country trip where the weather is less than VFR. Whether he or she is looking at an approach
in Class B airspace or one to a small rural airport, the feeling is the same –
near terror. “What have I gotten myself
into? Can I really do this?”
pilots and military pilots train and train, practice and practice. In addition to flying the paid mission about
twenty days each month, they get to demonstrate their abilities several times
each year to some senior flight examiner.
And then, when anything slightly different is on the horizon, they are
off to a simulator, or off to find an instructor to practice the new
technique. Us GA folk? We say, “I read about it in the
magazine. I can do this.” Professional pilots do not have the same
attitude as us GA folks.
general aviation pilots, however, are an odd lot. While the flying magazines would like to
picture us as fully safe, measured, law-abiding citizens, we all seem to have a
bit of a wild streak within us. We hate
for the FAA or any other government agency to tell us how to fly our
planes. In some cases I swear, just a
like a teen-ager, we sometimes do just the opposite of what we know we should
do just because we can
let’s be honest here. It isn’t just that
we are authority-adverse. We GA people
are also generally holding full-time jobs, raising kids, going to school, and
trying to find a few extra dollars to put toward training. There just are not enough dollars and hours
to do everything we wish.
and the FAA have gone a long way with their on-site seminars and their on-line
training topics, But sitting in an
audience, or watching a video, no matter how well produced, just is not the
same as talking to someone who has faced the same issues as us.
Wyrzykowski (yes, that is spelled correctly) had that “what have I gotten myself
into” experience when he made his first instrument flight in the New England
area. He had just completed his
instrument checkride, and headed for home. With weather deteriorating, he landed at an
airport to wait out the weather. It was
next day, with the weather solidly IFR, he decided that his one-day old
instrument ticket gave him sufficient knowledge and experience to head for home.
After all, home was not that far away.
took off from a non-towered airport after calling Flight Service from a pay
phone to get his IFR clearance. (Yes, for our younger pilots, it was not too
long ago that we did not have cell phones, GPS systems, and moving maps.) The clearance he received was not what he was
expecting. There was no “Cleared as
filed. Climb and maintain, etc.”
Instead, he heard. “Cleared into controlled airspace direct to the XYZ
VOR. Climb and maintain 3,000. Contact Boston Center for further
clearance.” Is that intimidating or
he takes off, heads to the VOR, and contacts Boston Center on the assigned
frequency. Savvy instrument pilots know
what will come next. Radek was rated but
definitely not savvy. He was not ready
to hear “Piper 43243, radar contact, are you ready to copy your further
clearance?” Had he been a savvy
instrument pilot he would have pen and paper available. Or at least, he would have said, “Stand by.
“ But he wasn’t, and he didn’t. Instead he said, “Ready to copy, and was
grateful to get a very simple clearance direct to the final approach fix to his
weather at his destination was a bit above non-precision minimums. And although he was returning to his home
airport, and although he was flying a circling ADF approach that he had flown a
dozen times before under the hood, this was the first time he had done this for
most of us, having lived through this experience, would have eventually turned
it into a good hangar story. And I am
sure that Radek did as well. But
eventually, unlike many of us who said, “There has to be a better way than
throwing pilots into the deep end,” he actually thought of a better way. And then he did something about it.
met Radek at Oshkosh this past year. And
I was totally impressed with his solution.
He created an atmosphere where new and experienced instrument-rated
pilots could talk to each other, face to face, about their experiences. And thus, www.ImcClubs.org
idea behind IMC Clubs is simple. Instead
of listening to a local pilot’s story, how about having the opportunity to
listen to a lot pf pilots’ stories, of actual situations. And then, instead of listening to one
person’s solution, how about experiencing an environment where we can share
that experience with a roomful of instrument pilots, some with more and some
with less experience, and discuss how the situation could have handled
and the IMC folks have taken these real stories and polished them into a
professional video. Then, once a month,
under the guidance of a local instrument flight instructor, the pilots can take
a situation and talk about what options the pilot could have chosen at
different points. And then, they can
change the situation a bit and talk about how this affects their decisions.
IMC Clubs have created a web-site that is truly member-driven. Members have
asked for a lot of info, and a lot of info is available. Want to ask an instructor any question? If it is not already in the ‘FAQ”, just ask
and a CFI-I will answer within a day.
Looking for an on-line manual or training aid? Check this section out before you spend a lot
of time with Google. (And if they don’t
have it, and you do find it on Google, drop them a note and ask that they post
price for all of this? $3.00 per month.
But not sure if you want to commit?
Check to see if there is a club in your community. If so, find the time and place of the next
meeting. In most local chapters, there
is not charge to sit in on a (single) meeting. No
club in your community? Form one.
convinced. I think that this is one
great way for the serious instrument pilot to stay plugged into the world of
Don’t just practice until you get
right. Practice until you don’t get it
Chris Hope has taught fledgling and
experienced pilots for more nearly 40 years, mostly in the Kansas City
area. Chris holds flight instructor
certificates for single engine land and sea airplanes and multi-engine land
planes, as well as for instrument training.
He holds ground instructor certificates for advanced and instrument
training. Chris is an FAA Gold Seal
Instructor and a Master Certified Flight Instructor. Chris serves as a member of the FAASTeam in
the Kansas City area. His website is www.ChrisHopeFAAFlightInstructor.com
Published in "Aircraft Owner", November 2013