It been a long winter, but I got back out the St. Andrews the last couple of days to start working on IFR training.

For the non-pilots reading, IFR stands for instrument flight rules. As opposed to VFR, which is visual flight rules, IFR means you’re flying without visual reference to the ground, and using your instruments to tell you where you are and where you’re headed, and for that matter, if you’re in cloud, whether you’re wings-level.

At the commercial level, you have to be able to do an intercept to a beacon. Most people do a VOR because it’s easier. Even so, I nearly slipped up being given an inbound intercept and when asked what heading I was going to turn to once I reached the radial, blurted out the radial heading instead of the inbound heading, but caught myself and changed my answer.

The last couple of days has turned my brain to mush. Yesterday we did holds in the simulator, starting with a VOR. Since I made it through that and wasn’t yet curled up in a fetal position on the floor of the sim cockpit, the second session was over an NDB, first with an inbound leg of 090, then switching to non-standard left hand turns, then switching to holding with an inbound leg of 270. All following procedure turns, and expecting me to make the appropriate radio calls entering and established, and since I was doing so well I guess, he gave me a 15kt crosswind.

I think it’s like learning a new language. You can learn the grammar and the vocabulary, and look up unfamiliar words and kind of manage. But to really function in society, you have to gain a certain minimum fluency, and there’s no way to do that but practice. IFR, it’s one thing to be able to answer questions on a paper, but to be able to figure out whether you’re going to do an offset entry or a parallel entry before you cross the beacon and have to start your turn, and then you have 60 seconds of a standard rate turn to figure out what the ADF with display once you’re abeam the beacon, and then throw in wind correction to muck up your angles, that just takes practice.

In any case, I have a hard time being certain what a realistic timeline is for finishing these things. When I got my commercial licence I had three weeks last may to finish up and prepare, and we were definitely cramming, but I did it. I now have vacation planned for August this year, leaving myself lots of time to get the written test done and then finish up in my three weeks of vacation. He shook his head and said, nah. And told me I was going to be finished well before then. I guess I’m doing okay!


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