Last month, a handful of Horizon pilots added an instrument rating to their pilot credentials. Commonly the next after Private Pilot Certificate, the instrument rating allows pilots to fly in weather and clouds that a non-IFR rated pilot has to avoid. We interviewed two of these newly minted instrument pilots to learn more about their approach to their training and some tips that all flight students could benefit from. 

1) Why did you want to get your IFR rating?

Jennie S: I decided to pursue my instrument rating because it was the next step in achieving my goal to be a CFI.

Steve C: There were a few major reasons I wanted to get my instrument rating. The first was to avoid having to cancel a flight for slightly poor weather. This was the biggest factor in deciding to go forward with IFR training. Second, it makes you a much more competent and safe VFR pilot. Getting your instrument rating sharpens your skills from head-to-toe, there’s no doubt about that! Finally, I love a good challenge! It’s not just for the challenge alone, but all the benefits that come with accomplishing it. Looking back on it, I would never want to be restricted because of a minor change in weather ever again.

2) Overall, was it easier or more difficult than expected?

JS: This is a tough one, haha. I will say it was mostly easier than expected. Vicky made things easy to understand and the expectations were clear from the start. The challenge for me was fighting self doubt after the failed first attempt (at another school) but that was a specific incident for me.

SC: Overall, getting the rating was as difficult as expected, and I feel like that’s the way it should be. This is because I did loads of research before I started training so there were no surprises throughout the process. With that in mind, it went pretty smoothly.

3) What things were easy in the course?

JS: Hmm… I think the easiest for me was flying the approaches. Once I understood the precision/non precision approaches it was pretty straightforward.

SC: Luckily for me, most of the course was straight forward and easy because of the studying I did when I was not at the flight school. That was a huge benefit and I suggest it should not be left out.

4) What was difficult?

JS: The most difficult thing for me was adjusting from the steam gauges to the G1000. It took a bit to get familiar with the avionics, but after one lesson dedicated to the G1000 it was less intimidating. Executing holds was challenging as well, but with Vicky’s tips it didn’t take long to grasp the concept.

SC: Initially the most difficult part of instrument training was understanding the flow! It’s a tough thing to explain and is better learned through experience, which is why this was difficult at first. When I say flow, I mean learning to expect ATC to say certain things at certain times, and then the procedures to follow while you are extremely task saturated. This just simply takes practice, but once you understand this, it feels natural.

5) Having gone through PPL training, did you change the way you studied/prepared for your IFR lessons?

JS: I definitely spent a lot more time preparing for lessons. I made sure to study before lessons so I could make the most of our time as well as clear up any confusion I may have come across during my studying.

SC: When I received my bachelor’s of science degree in mechanical engineering, my friends and family asked me what I learned and I always gave the same answer: “I learned how to learn!” This is especially true for aviation. The most important part of preparing for IFR lessons is figuring out what you don’t know, what you need help with, and understanding what you need to learn to get to the next step. I found that this could be applied to both PPL and IR training.

6) Was the sim helpful to you?

JS: Yes! Not only did it save money but it was such a great tool. We were able to press pause whenever we needed to talk, and the fact that you could fly approaches anywhere was a huge confidence boost for the checkride.

SC: Honestly besides the cost advantage I would always prefer to be in a real plane. This is largely due to the fact that most of the stress and challenge of IFR flying comes from actually being in the environment. It’s tough to duplicate this situation knowing that you can “pause” the experience in the sim when needed. There’s a calming effect that cannot be ignored.

At the same time, I think this is an invaluable tool for someone that is getting hung up on certain aspects of instrument flying, and allowing the student to pause and let the instructor have a moment to teach is just what some students seem to need.

As for myself, I wanted to experience the urgency and seriousness of each phase of IFR flying as much as possible.

7) Was the sense of accomplishment different than when you got your PPL?

JS: I think my IFR was special because I had so many people rooting for me. Knowing that I had a team supporting me and believing in me made the accomplishment more meaningful.

SC: Having accomplished the instrument rating, I feel much more complete as a pilot. In fact, I didn’t exercise my right to fly all that much while having my PPL, but instead I spent that time training for instrument. Don’t get me wrong, I did have quite a bit of fun, but it all goes back to why I chose to continue on to my IR in the first place. I don’t like having to worry about minor changes in weather spoiling my day or weekend!