U.S. Department
of Transportation

Federal Aviation

St. Louis
Flight Standards District Office

10801 Pear Tree Lane
Suite 200
St. Ann, Missouri 63074


March 2002 




Thought for the month....
The enjoyment of flight comes from meeting the challenges of flight.

IFR Fun?.... Many pilots are frightened away from learning how to fly IFR because it looks so busy. All the various types of approaches must be learned, normal and emergency procedures must be committed to memory, and the hardest part of all, we have to learn how to speak the language.

Flying IFR is not difficult, but doing it well is a real challenge. Doing it in actual conditions can be an even more engaging ordeal. It's not the same as training under the hood. When we're training we always know that at the end of the approach we're going to be able to look-up and see the airport. When it's real, there's no guarantee that will happen.

When we're flying VFR we can see nasty weather ahead and deviate to avoid it. When we're in the clouds, we have to learn other strategies to ensure we don't bump into something too big to handle. This means a lot of thinking has to get done in the cockpit, and that means a lot of other things have to happen automatically. We only have a certain amount of random access memory available and if we have to use a portion of it to fly the aircraft or set-up approaches, we may not have enough remaining to dedicate to making in-flight decisions.

Given these conditions, why would flying IFR be fun? It's the same reason people get checked out in taildraggers, floatplanes, sailplanes, balloons, and helicopters. Each comes with it's own unique set of challenges and the reality of flying is that "fun" doesn't come from the freedom of flight, it comes from the challenge of flight. Fun is learning how to perform a procedure or operate a piece of equipment to the highest level.

I mentioned that learning to speak the language of IFR is the hardest part, and it is. Learning how to interpret the instruments and react to what they are telling us takes some time, but it's a learned skill just like landing. Learning the correct verbiage and when to use it usually takes a lot longer. When we have to concentrate on what to say, we fail to pay attention to other things, such as the altimeter and attitude indicator. Half way through the transmission we notice we're 200 feet low and 20º off our assigned heading. This may not be such a big deal while we're enroute at altitude, but when it happens in a busy terminal area, things can begin to back-up on us pretty quickly.

Like every other rating, a new instrument rating is really a license to learn. We've passed the knowledge test and proven to the examiner that we can keep the greasy side down while flying within the prescribed standards, but that doesn't mean we're ready to tackle a single pilot night IMC flight to O'Hare. Now is the time to build some confidence, first by filing IFR flight plans even in VFR conditions. It's not a bad idea to take the same flight several times to learn that even though we may file it the same way, we don't always get the same flight.

After attaining some level of comfort, it's time to mix things up a bit. File into some busier airports, as well as some desolate rural fields. Both present challenges and learning experiences. At the same time you'll get a better understanding of the weather and the type of conditions you're comfortable with. This is when we are able to put together some meaningful personal minimums.
fun of learning.

The obvious benefits to earning an instrument rating are increased utility and safety. The benefit to improving our instrument skills is increased confidence and enjoyment. Learning to fly IFR is a challenge worth the fun.

Upcoming Events

April 2nd
Pilot & Aircraft Courtesy Evaluation - PACE
Parks College Hangar at St. Louis Downtown Airport
8 AM to 12 PM

May 8th
Working CFI Safety Seminar
Meramec Community College
Lecture Hall 101
6:30 to 9:30 PM

Operations Safety Program Manager
1-800-322-8876 extension 4835