The Precision and Technicalities of Instrument Flight

As a certificated pilot now undertaking the training for my instrument rating, I write this as I near the half-way point of my curriculum.  This training is everything I anticipated and hoped it would be: sophisticated, demanding, and rewarding of technical excellence and precision.  It is absolutely engrossing and utterly satisfying.

Of particular interest to me is observing how the lessons build upon each other.  At this stage of my training, for example, I am learning to fly holding patterns: great racetrack patterns in the sky used to help controllers separate flow.  This could not be learned without first gaining proficiency in handling navaids, their radials, and precision aircraft control including speed.

There is an inevitable honing of flight skills associated with this training, and I’m finding it particularly pleasing to see my proficiency grow.  My ability to multitask as a pilot is rising fast thanks to the instrument training’s demands.  I’ve read about single-pilot IFR and its difficulties, and I can certainly see that this is a very task-intensive way to aviate.

Yesterday’s lesson was the first in “the sim” — the PCATD simulator device.  This is a fantastic tool!  The instructor is able to set up any situation or conditions, pause events, and dial in weather to his liking.  He toyed with me on my final pattern of the day, putting a 30 knot turbulent crosswind across my holding pattern.  I had…difficulties with this last one, but to be fair it was a situation designed to cause failure the first time around.  My next flight — again on holding patterns — will be airborne.  I particularly enjoyed the sim time and will gladly return there for more review as we progress.  (The FAA permits up to 10 hours of simulator time to be credited for the instrument rating.)

On a separate note, I completed a “Wings” program phase today.  The FAA Safety folks run a really fine program in cooperation with the AOPA, and the online safety courses are exceptional: informative, entertaining and by all means educational.  Some of the knowledge presented is, of course, merely a review of previous training; other parts offer aspects and points of view that I’d not yet had the opportunity to consider.  In the spirit of learning from others’ mistakes there are courses which review and analyze accidents and incidents; I find these highly informative, if often chilling.

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