Flying Instruments – My Personal Saga


As many of my readers know I am working towards my Instrument rating. This is for several reasons. It makes me a better, safer pilot; Expands where and when I can fly; And lowers my insurance. All good reasons to pursue the rating.

Check me out under the foggles with my awesome instructor!

flying instruments

Flying with the foggles on is like nothing I’ve experienced in any other aspect of my life. Imagine, if you will, that while you drive your car you can’t see outside. You can only drive by looking at the dashboard. Now, the airplane’s dashboard has actual navigation gauges in it but for a newbie Instrument student it’s still a little unnerving. Hopefully that will wear off as I build time “under the hood” or even in actual clouds.

Starting my Instrument

I started the journey this time last year. However, life and one excuse after another got in the way. This time I am committed. I schedule the plane two to three weeks out and put it as a priority in my life. This will help with two things. Making sure I don’t miss the flight as well as keeping me focused on what I really want.

Speaking of what I want, what is it that I want? What do I want from flying? This is a question I have asked myself many times and I have come to an answer that I am happy with. I want to fly and progress in my flying ability so I can share the joy I have of flying.

I want to become an instructor and teach other people how to fly. I want to be able to hop in a plane and go see my family in all areas of the country because today is Friday and why not! And, let’s be honest, I want to fly because it’s a challenge and a fun skill to talk about with other people.

Instrument Rating Requirements

In order to understand where I’m headed with this rating, it helps to understand the requirements to attempt the checkride. They are as follows:

  • Have at least a Private Pilots license (check).
  • Speak, read and write English (check).
  • 50 hours cross country logged as PIC.
  • 40 hours of actual or simulated Instrument flying
  • 15 hrs of instrument flight training recieved
  • 3 hrs of training within 2 calendar months before exam date
  • Passed Instrument Written
  • 1 Cross country of 250 nautical miles (one leg) or more
    • Involve 3 airports
    • Instrument approach at each airport
    • 3 different kind of approaches (ex: ILS, VOR, GPS)

More flying and more prep for the written is what I need.

Prepping for the written

But I digress. Let’s get back to my instrument rating saga. I know that the instrument written is one of the most failed tests the FAA has. So, challenge 1: Pass the written the first time. I want to be one of the statistics on the positive side. How do I plan on achieving this? Well, I’ve got both the King and Sporty’s video series for IFR.  I will take both sets of practice tests until I pass with flying colors. I also have the Shepperd Air test. Again, once I feel I’m ready I will take that one and be sure to pass it as well. Then I will be ready for the written.

Practice makes Permanent

Now, on to the actual flying portion of the rating. I’m 3 flights in on my second reboot of my Instrument rating. I have several more flight hours to go before I’m even remotely ready to take the checkride. As an old high school teacher used to say, “Practice makes permanent. Perfect Practice makes Perfect”.

I’ve shot a few approaches and my first one was so horrible I resembled a dog chasing it’s tail all the way down the localizer and glide slope. My next approach was better.  Still weaving and bobbing to chase the needles but much smoother and not nearly as many massive swings in the needle. Improvement there.

Next up is trying a different approach (I’ve done the same one twice now) and trying an approach at a different airport. I also need to get in some cross country flights.

As I plan those I’ll post the planning and then the results of the flight so you can join me in my IFR training. My philosophy on many things is that it’s not important how fast you get something done, but how completely you understand it. Especially when it involves flying. I may not be on the fast track but I have nothing to prove and no desire to race to go fly for the airlines.

Do you have any stories from your Instrument training? What is one of the biggest hurdles you had to overcome to get your rating? Let me know in the comments.