Getting back into it (IFR advice)

Discussion in 'Cleared for the Approach' started by LoLPilot, Mar 11, 2021.

  1. LoLPilot

    LoLPilot Line Up and Wait

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    One of the last things I did before the pandemic hit and I took a hiatus from flying was get my IFR. My checkride was ugly, but I think I passed on the pity principle because I had dealt with some problems prior to the ride - funny story if anybody wants to hear it.

    Anyway I did a couple of flights after my checkride with another pilot to try and maintain currency, and then the opportunity I had to actually use the rating I scrubbed my flight and drove 2 hours to see the friend I was going to go see. I really did not feel confident in my IFR flight capabilities. When I was doing the rating I managed to log a couple of hours of actual IMC with my instructor and I never really felt comfortable. I don't know if it was lack of security in my own abilities as an instrument pilot, lack of comfort flying in IMC in a single engine aircraft, or a mixture of the above.

    Any tips on becoming more confident as an instrument pilot so that I can actually make use of my rating, or is there anybody else out there that treated it as, "wow that was a great learning experience and I'm glad I did it, but I think I'll stick to VFR thanks."
     
  2. Jim Carpenter

    Jim Carpenter Pre-takeoff checklist

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    You're not the only newly instrument rated pilot to be in that position, and, good that you recognize the potential hazards of limited experience.
    So, if you've had many months lay-off, it would be good to at least get your flying skills re-tuned, with either a safety pilot, or, better yet, at least for a lesson or two, with a CFII. Once your skills are back to checkride/IPC level, schedule a trip or two with your CFII in real weather. I'd recommend an actual trip somewhere, for that $200 hamburger, with real IMC, approaches on each end, etc., rather than a multi-approach intense training session. There's simply more time to "relax" enroute, more time to properly brief and set up approaches, and more brain bandwidth to absorb everything involved such as ATC procedures, weather awareness, etc. The typical training session, "let's see if we can knock out 4 approaches in an hour and a half," though we've all done those for training and checkrides, can be too much all at once.
    From there, you can also develop reasonable personal minimums, for both enroute weather and actual approach minimums, appropriate to your level of experience and confidence.
     
  3. David Megginson

    David Megginson Pattern Altitude

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    It's the scan. We all let our scans deteriorate as soon as we have a distraction, and the less recent time you have, the more likely it is to happen.

    Fortunately, a scan is the easiest thing to practice on even the cheapest consumer flight sim with the blurriest graphics—just make sure you always dial in a bit of wind and turbulence, so that it needs active control management. No need to buy a yoke or rudder pedals or anything like that.

    Try something like Rod Machado's "musical scan", where you count like an old-fashioned band leader "A one, and a two, and a ..." The "and a" is always the AI (unless you're partial panel), and the "One", "two", etc is another instrument you need to look at for current phase of flight. So for climb it might be

    "A ASI, and a DG, and a ALT, and a VSI, and a..." where every "and a" is back to the AI. Practice simple things, like climbing in a straight line or flying straight and level for 10 minutes without breaking your scan. Then start adding distractions, like route changes, etc. If you're scanning well, you'll handfly well in IMC; if you're fixating or otherwise distracted, you'll constantly be chasing the plane and fixing problems (100 ft too low, 10 deg off, 5 deg bank, etc) and making your passengers motion sick.
     
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  4. iamtheari

    iamtheari Administrator Management Council Member

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    The scan is the key, and practice is the key to keeping your scan sharp. Fly VFR and practice your scan. Get a safety pilot and practice more. Find a CFII and do an IPC even if you aren't "due" for one. Instrument flying is one of the most rapidly-perishable skills we have as pilots. All you have to do is practice regularly so you have the skill ready when you need it.
     
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  5. flyingron

    flyingron Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Get an instructor and work your way through an IPC. PIC does a short IPC course that can help if you're really rusty.
     
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  6. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Absolutely agree. There is nothing to lose and much to gain by admitting to a lack of comfort and seeking post-rating instruction.
     
  7. PaulS

    PaulS Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Do an IPC, then tell the instructor you want to fly in actual with him. I tell my instructor to call me if he has to cancel a primary student due to weather. We've done it a few times, good stuff.

    DPEs don't give people a pity pass, you were competent when he passed you. Confidence is a big deal with IFR, you need to work to get it. As Mark says, be upfront about not being comfortable flying in IMC with the instructor. They'll be honest with you. Also work on personal mins. You don't have to shoot approaches to minimums, I use +500 on approaches for my personal mins.
     
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  8. chemgeek

    chemgeek Pattern Altitude

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    There might be a several step process to honing your instrument confidence. Ultimately, it involves repeated exposure to IMC so that you are psychologically able to apply your well-earned skills without unnecessary fear.
    1. Do an IPC with an instructor who is willing to go up on a MVFR day for some IFR climbs and descents, and maybe a partial IFR approach. This will also reset your currency clock for 6 months as a bonus.
    2. File and fly an IFR trip in VMC. This will get you reacquainted with working the system and maintaining instrument standards for heading and altitude. It will also get you used to the single-pilot workflow of flying and talking to ATC at the same time again.
    3. File and fly one or more IFR trips in friendly MVFR conditions that will allow an IFR climb on top during departure, and an IFR descent or partial approach at the destination. (This is the most common usage of the IFR rating in a light single anyway.)
    4. As you fly more MVFR trips with the expectation of flying on top, and your confidence builds, you can add trips where you might be between layers, or in clouds for some or an extended period of time. These will be trips where you will be able to take on the additional responsibilities of making more critical in-flight weather decisions while flying in IMC.
    IFR skills are a use or lose proposition. There are some who think that their IFR training will provide them with the ability to cope with an emergency VFR into IMC situation, but if proficiency is not used or maintained, that training will likely be useless in a real emergency. Indeed, this attitude may lead to an even higher probability of a VFR into IMC occurrence. The best way to avoid VFR into IMC is to simply file IFR in the first place. The trick to is to exercise your IFR skills so that they are usable whenever you need them. One of the best ways to use the IFR rating in a light single is to take all the unpleasantness out of flying MVFR trips. It is so much less stressful being on top of a low overcast, or between layers, than slogging along underneath a 2000-3000 foot ceiling dodging radio towers or getting squeezed by rising terrain or lowering cloud bases. If you are proficient, Even slogging along in a benign clag for 3 hours is better than dodging terrain. The first time I flew one of those in-the-clag trips, breaking out at 500 AGL on an ILS after not seeing the ground or sky for hours, it was a confidence-building epiphany: the IFR system actually works as advertised!
     
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  9. Deelee

    Deelee Cleared for Takeoff

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    What were the conditions that caused you to scrub the flight?
     
  10. AlphaMike

    AlphaMike Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I'm in a similar situation. I haven't flown in IMC since October (got my IR last summer). I've done a few approaches in VMC and filed a few IFR flight plans but no real IMC since the clouds around here started holding ice. I've got my CFII holding a spot for a IFR day with no ice. Hopefully that day comes soon before she get called back to the big leagues.
     
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  11. SethV

    SethV Pre-takeoff checklist

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    IPC as others said is great. Fly the plane and knock off the rust. Another nice option is ride along in the back seat during another students lesson. I often have a student ride in the back while I am teaching someone else. Its amazing what you can pick up on when you don't have to fly the plane from a process, procedures and flow perspective. And its free!!

    Seth
     
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  12. wsuffa

    wsuffa Touchdown! Greaser!

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    This.

    Even if you fly IFR regularly a good IPC is valuable periodically. I used to ensure my IFR currency with an IPC every 6-9 months regardless of whether I met the currency standards or not. Always learned something new.
     
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  13. LoLPilot

    LoLPilot Line Up and Wait

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    It was borderline ice conditions and it would have been my first actual IFR flight that wasn't a training flight, and I would have been solo. I just didn't feel comfortable doing everything by myself and not screwing it up haha.
     
  14. David Megginson

    David Megginson Pattern Altitude

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    We have to do an IPC (basically, the full IFR flight test) with a Transport Canada designated examiner every two years in Canada for IFR, and each IPC gives an automatic 12 months' recency before the 6+6+6 requirements kick in again.

    So recently, I decided to do an IPC every year (instead of every two), simular to what @wsuffa suggests, so that I'd always be in recency. My next one was going to be May 2020. Then March 2020 happened …
     
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  15. Challenged

    Challenged Pattern Altitude

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    Clouds can sense weakness. You need to show those clouds who Alpha is. When you start feeling unsure of yourself, you open up the hamburger hole and you yell at the clouds...works every time.
     
  16. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Much of the discussion here has focused on clouds and that makes sense. But don't discount the importance of equipment knowledge and ease of ATC communications to our comfort level.

    IFR is a dynamic environment and when giving recurrent instrument training, whether a full blown IPC or a simple checkout, filing IFR has almost invariably resulted in something that, if not a complete surprise to the pilot, at least a momentary WTF? Learning to deal with those is important too.
     
  17. David Megginson

    David Megginson Pattern Altitude

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    @midlifeflyer goes on to make important points about buttonology and procedures, but it's also worth noting that you don't have to be in clouds for them to be a problem. Once you're up above, for example, a sloping cloud deck (eg ahead of a front) will give you a false horizon that conflicts with what the AI and TC are telling you, and some pilots find that extremely hard to ignore.
     
  18. Pugs

    Pugs Line Up and Wait

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    Similar situation except I got my IR in June of 19. I fly 6-10 hours a month and often file IFR. I have a bunch of in and out and punching through a layer up and down time and a few actual approaches. By a bunch, I mean 10 hours .2 at a time :D. Yesterday, a friend and I departed IFR into a 2000' ceiling up to 6000' and I was IMC for about 45 minutes with typical Potomac/DC reroutings and freq changes. This is in the Archer so hand flying and entering reroutes (thanks Flight stream what a great device)!

    Whew, I was glad to break out into CAVU at that point. My right seater was a lapsed pilot who had almost finished his instrument 20 years ago before other stuff took his attention. He was amazed at how uncomfortable he was IMC with rain beating on the windscreen. I did OK but had to remind myself to scan several times as I looked down to enter a new route and looked up to find a 30 degree bank. Glad the Archer trims out altitude so well.

    There is no substitute for actual time for sure and this is the season after ice before convective to keep those skills sharp. Go pick that perfect barely MVR or barely IFR day and go fly a route you're familiar with. Then do again and I'm sure you'll soon get your skills and confidence back in a low risk environment. Flying with an instructor is great but there is no substitute to flying without a safety net as long as you step into it in a controlled manner.
     
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  19. LoLPilot

    LoLPilot Line Up and Wait

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    That is another big part of it. I'm very comfortable on radios and pretty comfortable talking to ATC. I was comfortable with the airplane that I had reserved, but the airport I would have been flying to was near an airport for a fairly busy regional university. I didn't want to get down to my destination in actual, get assigned to a hold that I wasn't expecting in an unfamiliar airspace environment and then be *THAT* pilot who winds up in a bunch of guys' YouTube suggestions on VASAviation with the title "Pilot gets YELLED AT by ATC!!"
     
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  20. David Megginson

    David Megginson Pattern Altitude

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    Interesting point — in 18 years of flying my little Piper PA-28 IFR (much of it in IMC), including many flights in and out of busy terminal areas like NYC, Boston, Philly, DC, Toronto, and Montreal, I've never been assigned a hold by ATC. (I got threatened once by Toronto, but chose the other option they gave me.)
     
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  21. chemgeek

    chemgeek Pattern Altitude

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    It is my experience that ATC is EXTREMELY accommodating when the weather is IMC. They almost always make it as EASY as possible for you to get to your destination without making your life in the cockpit more complicated. When training in VMC conditions, you will get all sorts of short and tight vectors to the final approach course, unpublished holds, slam dunks, or switcheroos in a hectic, 3 approaches per hour training environment. When the chips are down, I've found that ATC often seems to take extra care and concern with us flibs. Even in the busy DCA environment, I've always gotten really good ATC support in IFR. Not that it can't happen, but I would be shocked if you were given a surprise unpublished hold instead of delay vectors for an approach at a busy airport. On my first-ever solo IFR flight, the weather went to hell in a handbasket pretty quickly and I entered a conga line of planes needing to fly the ILS at my destination. Like you, I wondered what was going to happen on what I expected to be an uncomplicated flight. ATC handled the situation like a master orchestra conductor. No holds, no craziness. We all got in quickly and in an orderly fashion with ATC's deft direction. That was an epiphany for me after IFR training. Tell ATC what you need, and they try to accommodate, not yell at you. If you have questions or are confused about a clearance, just ask. As you gain more experience filing IFR, especially in MVFR or IFR conditions, you will see and not worry as much about what-ifs. There are always what-ifs.
     
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  22. Brad W

    Brad W Line Up and Wait

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    I actually got more IMC time in before by checkride that I think most do...but I still struggled with it through the years.... similar experience right after the ride, then I got rusty...then many cycles through the years getting recurrent with CFII's as I moved around through the years. I think the most lacking thing was finding CFII's with real world weather experience to help learn and gain confidence in real world practical weather decision making....
     
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  23. Captain Bubba

    Captain Bubba Pre-Flight

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    Your situation is far from unique. Lots of folks get the rating and fall out of currency 6 months later never to return. It’s difficult for someone who isn’t a working commercial pilot to stay IFR proficient, and by proficient I don’t mean just the legal requirements.

    One tip is to fly IFR to the maximum extent possible, even when the weather is clear. This keeps you proficient in the procedural aspects of IFR, which is just as important as the mechanical aspects of flying in IMC.
     
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  24. David Megginson

    David Megginson Pattern Altitude

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    Excellent advice. Unfortunately, that doesn't count towards recency in Canada (though lots of old Canadian pilots are in stubborn denial and claim it does). The regs explicitly state that we need 6 hours and six approaches to minima in real or simulated IMC during the past six months, so just filing IFR on a sunny day or shooting an approach in VMC doesn't buy us anything except the proficiency with radio phraseology and procedures, as you mention.

    On the bright side, we get an automatic 12 months' recency from every mandatory 2-year IPC.
     
  25. Captain Bubba

    Captain Bubba Pre-Flight

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    I understand. I was just referring to the practical aspects of IFR confidence building. A big source of trepidation to many pilots is just not being comfortable in the IFR environment because most IR training just focuses on the IMC aspects without spending much time on actual IFR flight plans.

    I suspect Canada may also charge more for IFR operations as they are working towards the European model of a coin slot at every airport.
     
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  26. Deelee

    Deelee Cleared for Takeoff

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    Good suggestion filing IFR even if you know the trip is going to be in VMC. I have been doing that since getting my IR in December. That, plus doing practice approaches regularly, has allowed me to maintain currency (via the practice approaches) and proficiency (via both practice approaches and flying in the system).
     
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  27. David Megginson

    David Megginson Pattern Altitude

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    No, there are no extra fees associated with filing IFR for a private piston pilot — it works the same way as in the U.S. And like in the U.S., most smaller airports don't have landing fees. Some medium-sized airports like CYGK (Kingston, ON) don't even have overnight transient parking fees. I find the fee situation overall adds up to about the same in Canada and the U.S. (we have a small ATC user fee but no customs user fee; the U.S. has a small customs user fee — and huge local fees at airports like KTEB — but no ATC fee).

    I pay a mandatory fixed fee of just over US $50/year to Nav Canada for air traffic services (VFR and IFR). At Canada's 7 or 8 busiest airports (like YYZ) there's also a US $7.50 per departure congestion fee, but that's waived if you diverted for weather or other safety issues, and at expensive airports like that it gets lost in the landing fees, FBO ramp fees, etc in any case.
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2021
  28. LoLPilot

    LoLPilot Line Up and Wait

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    I think that the filing in VFR is a great idea after I do my IPC work, actually. After my training I was quite comfortable flying the airplane by reference to instruments, and when I took a VFR flight again after doing a bunch of instrument work it was almost disconcerting to me to be looking outside. But the whole "working within the system" was what really gave me fits. I was fortunate to have a very cramped training environment with lots of airports with different instrument approaches. So you could do an approach at an airport, go missed, and then head over to another airport to practice a totally different approach, and do this again, all within the space of an hour and a half or so. But I constantly found myself mentally sagging when doing this. My CFII called it "penguins." He said your brain is an iceberg and penguins are trying to climb on it (the tasks you need to do). If you don't prioritize the penguins properly they'll all climb on the berg at once and it will sink! During one particularly offputting practice session I was tracking courses successfully but forgot where the airplane geographically was, so when I popped the foggles off to return home I was like "whoa we're over here and westbound?" And my safety pilot was like "what??"
     
  29. Captain Bubba

    Captain Bubba Pre-Flight

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    You can do practice approaches on an IFR flight plan, but make sure ATC is down with what you are doing. Sometimes in busy airspace they may not be able to accommodate everything you want to do.
     
  30. BrianNC

    BrianNC En-Route

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    The instructor I did my IPC with a couple of years ago does numerous accelerated 7 day instrument ratings a year. He gave me a sheet of paper with things to do after the IPC and the first one on the list was file IFR on your next 20 flights even if it's VFR in order to get used to being in the system.

    Edit: I don't think he would mind me posting them:


    New IFR Pilot Tips


    1) File IFR and get a clearance on every cross-country flight for your next 20 flights


    2) ALWAYS do an instrument approach, rain or shine, for your next 20 flights


    3) Take the time to learn and properly use the features of all of your avionics


    4) Use all your cockpit resources on every flight


    5) Fly whenever you can on cloudy days with no weather (i.e. Thunderstorms or Icing)


    6) Fly whenever you can on marginal VFR days


    7) Fly on days when you can climb through a cloud layer and descend back through to land


    8) Fly with an experienced IFR pilot or CFII as a safety pilot and hone your skills


    9) Get an IPC every 12 months, whether you are current or not


    10) Learn to love cloud flying
     
  31. Deelee

    Deelee Cleared for Takeoff

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    I think I know who gave you this list... this is awesome. I didn't end up training with him, but he and his wife were really really cool and gave me a ton of useful materials even though I told them I wouldn't be able to make my schedule work with theirs. Great accelerated program. I ended up doing mine the ol' fashioned way, but if I were to do an accelerated program, theirs is the one I would use hands down.
     
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  32. BrianNC

    BrianNC En-Route

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    :thumbsup:

    He finally went full time doing it. He used to only do it once a month.
     
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  33. midlifeflyer

    midlifeflyer Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Great list!
     
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