David Butler | April 7, 2022

After getting my Private Pilot Certificate last April, I’ve been building my cross country time in an effort to get the 50 hours Cross Country PIC time need for my Instrument Ticket. As of January 2002, I had approximately 40 hours Cross Country PIC and my instructor recommended we get started. After 3 months, 32 hours of simulated IFR, 1.8 hours of actual IFR and 8.4 hours on an ATD (for a total of 42.2 hours), I earned my Instrument rating. Here are some inside tips and tricks to getting your IFR rating quickly and efficiently.

1. PASS YOUR FAA EXAM FIRST

One Stop Shopping for FAA Test Prep

OK, this one is a bit of a shameless plug, but it’s the truth. Knock your FAA Instrument exam out before you begin your flight training. This is not the easiest time to get the exam done. Sure, if you waited til you were at the end of your flight training, the test would be much easier, however, getting it done early gets you a fundamental footing on the knowledge area. MEAs, MOCAs, RNAV and LOC may be foreign concepts now, but learning them on the ground is far more efficient than learning them in the air.

Check out Aviation Seminars (www.aviationseminars.com/instrument-rating) for 3 different ways to pass your IFR Exam: Live In-Person, Live Zoom or On-Line On Demand.

2. FIND A QUALIFIED INSTRUCTOR

Find an instructor who you mesh with and has enough time to get you through your rating

This may be the most important step. Find an instructor who is qualified, has enough time to get you through your training and that inspires you to be the best pilot you can be. I can’t tell you the number of times that I have received phone calls from students who are having to take our IFR class a second or third time because their FAA Exam has expired prior to getting their check-ride done. The vast majority of those students have had multiple instructors, either due to personality conflicts or their instructors have moved on. Having to “start over” with a new instructor will not accelerate you through your training. Find an instructor who you mesh with and has enough time to get you through your rating.

3. FIND ONLINE RESOURCES WHEN YOU’RE STRUGGLING

Flight Training Apps: Great Resource for Online Training Resources

Holds were the bane of my existence on the exam and early on in my training. I just couldn’t wrap my head around choosing which pattern entry worked out best. 110° this, 70° that, drawing everything out by hand, only to get the answer wrong. I just couldn’t make it work out. My CFII walked me through his approach to it and the light bulb turned on. I was so impressed with his method that I helped him turn it into an Online Resource. Check out Hold’s Made Easy from Flight Training Apps (www.flighttrainingapps.com). He’s also made several videos on the use and operation of GNS430/530 and GTN650/750 Navigators. Garmin also makes nearly FULLY FUNCTIONAL GPS simulators for your iPad.

Utilize all the online resources you can find. Training on the ground is far more efficient than fumbling around in the airplane while being bounced around under the “hood”…and this leads to Number 4.

4. MAKE USE OF THE 10 HOURS OF SIMULATOR TIME

ELITE BATD

14 CFR § 61.65 (i): A maximum of 10 hours of instrument time received in a basic aviation training device or a maximum of 20 hours of instrument time received in an advanced aviation training device may be credited for the instrument time requirements of this section if
(1) The device is approved and authorized by the FAA;
(2) An authorized instructor provides the instrument time in the device; and
(3) The FAA approved the instrument training and instrument tasks performed in the device.

Find an FAA Approved BATD or AATD and use it to go over some of those harder IFR tasks and make sure it matches the avionics you plan on using during your training. I began my IFR training with the 8.4 hours of ATD time and my CFII and I worked on Intercepting and Tracking Airways, Entering Holds, Flying DME Arcs and basic Approaches. This gave me a chance to learn how to read Instrument Approach Plates and Low Altitude Charts, all while fully utilizing the FREEZE button on the sim…I have to admit, there were times in the airplane that I wish there was a FREEZE button in the airplane…but I digress.

5. USE A SAFETY PILOT

My buddy Dan (safety pilot) and I getting me some simulated IFR

14 CFR § 61.65 (d)(2): Forty hours of actual or simulated instrument time in the areas of operation listed in paragraph C of this section, of which 15 hours must have been received from an authorized instructor who holds an instrument-airplane rating […]

What does this mean? If only 15 hours need to come from a CFII, where can I get the other hours? Well, one way to get those hours is with a Safety Pilot. Not only does this save you some money (not having to pay a CFII to fly with you), but it lets you practice without the input of your instructor, you can see where you feel comfortable and where you need some help. Report your findings back to your CFII and work on those areas after you find out where they are.

6. GET SOME ACTUAL IMC

IFR Between Layers

I have to admit, the first time we had a chance to fly in actual IMC was a bit disconcerting. After flying around for 30 or so hours under foggles, you start to feel comfortable in your “horse blinder” world. Nothing around to distract you from your Instrument Scan, you just start to feel comfortable with no outside stimuli. That all changes the first time you go VFR into IMC. Now your brain is on overload, you’ve got rain streaking across the windshield, you’re looking out at the wings, wondering what icing would like, turning on the pitot heat, checking the OAT probe, straining to look outside trying to find any sign of the visual world of flying you remember from before you began your IFR Training…oh yeah, what about that Instrument Scan? If you’re like me, soon as you look back down at your 6 pack, you’re in a 30° bank and climbing without realizing it. That first flight in IMC left me feeling way behind the airplane. But after a few more flights in actual IMC, I really started to feel comfortable in it. I can’t imagine being “solo” for the first time experiencing real IMC conditions. Take every chance you can to get up in IMC while working on your IFR Rating, trust me on this one!

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