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Using Your Instrument Rating

Source: Wally Moran

Subscriber question:

"I recently got my instrument rating, but don't have the confidence to file and fly in the system. How do I go from an IFR rating to becoming a proficient IFR pilot?"
- Marshall M.


"The first step is to get out there and use that new rating as soon as possible after you get it. File IFR on every flight so you get better and better at working with the system.

Look for days when you can get some actual experience but within your personal minimums. You don't need to wait for that long cross country trip you hope to take someday. File to an airport 40 or 50 miles away, ask for the full approach and make a full stop landing, pick up a new clearance and return home. This way, you can get two full IFR cycles in about one hour's flying time. If you are not comfortable doing this the first time or two, get your CFI to go with you. If the weather is bad he or she is most likely available and happy to help.

ifr weather

Another option is to do this with another IFR pilot. That way two of you get the experience. If you do this, make sure you have a good pre-flight briefing so you both know what each of you will be doing.

Another thing you can do is take your handheld radio and drive to a large airport and listen to the radio work. Try to read back the clearances and headings to yourself and see how you compare with the other pilots. This gives you a good opportunity to improve your radio work and get familiar with the procedures at the airport. If you can park near the tower, listen to clearance delivery and practice copying the clearances. Listen to both approach control and departure control. You will soon learn they say almost the same thing to every airplane. Next file IFR to that airport on a good day, when they try to give you a visual approach, tell them you would like the full approach for training. Traffic permitting you will most likely get it. Now you are ready to go there when the weather is down.

There are also websites available where you can work on your radio skills at home.

Another option are the desktop simulators now available, which come with scenarios that help you work on your aeronautical decision making. While the simulators are good for learning and practicing procedures they are not a substitute for actual IFR time in the system.

So the way to get confident and capable is to get the experience. Just because you have your rating does not mean that you have to stop flying with your instructor. Use him or her to further expand your horizon and push your limits."

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