Minnesota Flyer - Serving Midwest Aviation Since 1960

By Paul Van Brunt
CFII, CFI of the year 2013 

Practice Flying in Actual


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Safety in aviation is a big part of everything we do as pilots and, as an instructor, one of the first things I think of is VFR into IMC. This is a major accident causal factor, which is why I focus on this with my students.

When I took my instrument rating I did not get hard IFR and after I flew into the clouds for the first time I realized I wanted more training so I decided to get my CFII and get confident with flying IFR.

As a result of my experiences, I make every attempt to get my private students in the clouds at least once and my instrument students as much actual IMC as I can schedule. I don't want them to experience their first actual IMC time by themselves.

Flying under the hood is good for procedures but flying actual is a whole different story. It takes time when you enter the clouds to adjust and become comfortable. I would like to suggest you get with an instructor that likes to fly in actual and go with them for a few lessons. Don't worry about not being comfortable - that's why they are with you. I have a client that schedules flights in actual IMC on a regular basis to practice IFR and do approaches to minimums as much as possible to keep current. It's nice having another pilot to point out areas for improvement and options.

Discuss ice and how you will avoid it if you don't have deice. Where is the warm air? Do I need to turn around? Do I need an alternate? It does not cost anything to list one, just in case, for an out.

Do you have a hand held radio on board? If you lose the electrical you only have a short time before the battery is dead, so plan ahead on what to do. You have a large electrical load when in IFR and some of it you can't get rid of. In my experience, you'll have about 30 minutes before the battery is dead.

I am sure everyone has different opinions and experience. I am not trying to tell you in an article how or what to do, but trying to encourage you to get with a competent instructor or another pilot that flys IFR and keep yourself current. This is one of the things that can save your life, plus, it's fun to fly actual and feel confident in what you are doing. Just follow directions and know the rules, and you will have many safe hours in the clouds.


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