Every pilot wants to be safer and adding an instrument rating is one of the best ways. The problem with getting your instrument rating is that all of your new skills and knowledge have an expiration date. It happens a lot sooner than the 6 month currency requirement from the FAA. In fact, your skills start to deteriorate within a matter of days of passing your instrument check ride. All knowledge and skill rapidly go away unless you use them. Don’t believe me? If you’re like me and took 4 years of Spanish in school, you’re probably not fluent except for the important words like cerveza. There is good news. Any pilot can become and stay an IFR Master by following four simple steps.
The first step to IFR mastery is to keep working on the basics. Just because you passed your written test and check ride, doesn’t mean you should stop reviewing your ground knowledge. A true master knows that every time they re-read a textbook, or watch a set of videos again, they get more. Not only does repetition increase retention, but you’ll also pick up parts you missed the first time. Set an appointment on your calendar to read one chapter of an IFR textbook like the great books from Rod Machado every week. Or if you like video, add in watching a segment of MZEROA.com PIC or Instrument Rating course.
The second step is to train with an expert. A safety pilot is not a good idea to save money during training. Someone who is not certified and trained to teach to standards often causes more problems and bad habits. Choosing a CFII is also critical. A brand new CFII will have the advantage of recent training and may be better at new technology. An experienced CFII will have the advantage of real world experience that only comes with time. A master CFII, although a little harder to find, will have the most experience and often be best. You also need to choose an instructor that is an expert in the avionics you will be flying and training with. The best instructor is someone who can teach several hours of ground on just your ForeFlight and Garmin or Avidyne GPS. If you don’t have someone qualified locally, add some training yourself by watching Avidyne, Garmin, ForeFlight or IFR Mastery Videos here.
The third step is to practice. This may be the most important and often neglected step of them all. If you’re an airline pilot you get to fly IFR constantly, even though it’s crew based, and are forced into constant simulator retraining and company check rides. The hardest part for most pilots is that they have jobs, family and other pressures that prevent flying IFR at least two times per week. If flying IFR twice per week is not possible there are ways to practice at home for free. Buy a simple yoke and a low cost flight simulator program for your home computer. It won’t meet legal currency, but it will keep your skills sharper than nothing. When you do fly, always shoot at least one practice instrument approach every time. Practice approaches in VFR conditions won’t count towards legal currency but again, it will keep your skills up. This is where a safety pilot is a great idea, because under the hood with someone looking outside does both. Better yet file IFR and shoot 2-3 approaches including the missed when you fly.
The fourth step is really what makes the difference between the good and the great pilots. It’s the same thing that makes the difference in any important skills. Repetition is where the gold is. If you do the first three steps every single month you will become and stay a true IFR Master.
If you’d like to really challenge yourself to be better, consider taking our 3-Day IFR Mastery course that offers intensive and challenging new training. Our new course is 20 hours of intense ground and flight instruction including landing at a Bravo airport, SIDs, STARS, and real-life busy DFW airspace. The best part is by taking a 3 day course it gets you away from your normal environment and pushes you to a new level of mastery. Learn more by clicking here.