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Asked by: George
Flight Instructor, General Aviation
I am a 275 hour vfr pilot and want to pursue my instrument rating. I plan to interview several instructors. What are the key things to ask?
on Aug 28, 2011
If I had my choice, I would look for someone who had plenty of experience flying in the IFR system outside of the local training area. Those real world experiences really help out when it comes to understanding the system and what’s really important and what’s just “gee-whiz.” That being said, real world experience alone does not make a good instructor.
Also, I would look for an instructor who emphasizes precision aircraft control and has a good method for teaching it to you. The most common problem I see with instrument pilots is basic instrument scan, interpretation, and control. I can only guess this is because their instructors moved on from basic aircraft control by reference to instruments before they (the student) had truly grasped the concept. The temptation to just start shooting approaches is too great. I personally would not shoot a single approach until my students could fly the airplane precisely by reference to the instruments.
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on Aug 28, 2011
Here are a few ideas:
What training program/curriculum do you use?
How do you plan on tracking/recording my progress through this program?
Why do you feel your program is better than other programs?
Can we fly in actual instrument conditions? (Some schools say no, I’d avoid them. There is a night and day difference between hood time and actual instrument meteorological conditions (IMC).)
This is only a sample list, of course. What you’re looking for, in my opinion, is an organized instructor who can present a curriculum with attainable goals who diligently records your progress. I have see all to many instructors decide on the day of the flight what to do. I have never seen this habit in any other form of formal education in my life. But, for some reason, people in this industry are willing to accept these subpar and disorganized methods without question. Don’t waste your money, find someone who will take a planned and structured approach to your training.
Finally, you might consider reading up extensively (as if you were going to teach it) on one or two topics that are part of the instrument training (check the PTS); let’s say, how does the altimeter work? Then you might ask the instructor to prepare a lesson on that topic. This may shed light on whether or not their teaching style will mesh well with your learning style.
PS Taking them to lunch to discuss these things might save you some money and help to build a friendship with your prospective instructor. We rarely say no to being taken out to eat. 🙂
on Aug 29, 2011
Well when you call the schools you just want to know about the aircraft they have and the pricing. You should do your instrument rating in a steam gauge plane vs a glass panel (unless you plan to fly alot of glass). Find the cheapest plane you can find that still has a loc/gs and WAAS GPS, you also should look for a school that has a frasca or redbird simulator. Simulators work is VERY helpful in IFR flying and a great way to spend your time when the weather is not conducive to IMC flying (if you are going to be under the hood it is cheaper more effective to just be in a sim).
Next to you want to talk to the instructor (keep in mind this is the BIGGEST deciding factor when it comes to where and with whom to learn IFR)
1) how much IMC time does he have? You don’t want some CFII that just teaches and doesnt actually do any real hard IFR flying
2) ask him what he includes in his scan, is this just the standard FAA six
pack answer, or does he include things like OAT that someone who flys IFR for a living would include
3) does he teach attitude flying or primary secondary. Personaly I have found that the people who fly IFR for a purpose lean towards attitude
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John D. Collins
on Aug 29, 2011
The previous answers are all good advice. I would add a few more questions.
If a simulator or FTD is available. “How much simulator time does the instructor use in his curriculum?” If he/she indicates they don’t use the simulator, then expect to pay more for their training. A simulator is a great tool for learning the basics and in particular for learning procedures. It is so easy to stop the simulator and discuss the situation if you get confused or have a question. Scenario’s can be started anywhere so that you can concentrate the lesson on the topic at hand, rather than preflight, taxi, takeoff, fly to the practice area or approach starting point, then practice, then return to the airport, land, taxi back, tie down the aircraft, … . Many instructors do not like the simulator because they are not logging flying time, so they avoid it. Logging flying time for the instructor is not your objective, learning how to become a good instrument pilot in an efficient manner is.
Pretty much all instrument instructors will be able to teach IFR procedures based on the VOR, ILS, DME, ADF. However, there are still many such instructors who are not comfortable with GPS and in particular WAAS. Make sure they will have the experience and skills to teach the newer systems and don’t forget to make sure they know how the autopilot system works. If you are learning in a G1000 system, make sure they are competent with the Glass systems.
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