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Are you thinking of adding an instrument rating to your private or commercial pilot license? You’ve already heard that becoming an instrument pilot will make you a more safe and proficient pilot. You’ve probably also heard that instrument training can be quite difficult.

While this is true, keep in mind that many people before you have learned enough to become an aviator in this very knowledge and mentally intensive type of flying.

In this podcast we will discuss:

• What will be different about instrument training
• How to best prepare for your instrument training
• Set yourself up for training success
• Some instrument only ways to save money on your flight training costs
• What the process of flight training will be like once you’re ready to do the flight training
• Some final tips for success

Instrument flying is some of the coolest flying you’ll ever do, but it does come at the cost of great effort. You’ll study harder than ever before, and learn a whole new way to fly. Personally, I really love the mental challenge of flying on instruments. And most people that learn to fly instrument feel that same way.

Let me know if you have any more questions, and feel free to let me know what your favorite part of the podcast was!

[vc_toggle title=”Episode Transcript”]

On this episode of AviatorCast, the path to success in instrument training.

Welcome aviators to another episode of AviatorCast. Load up your flight bag with useful flight training topics, interviews in aviation passion. Let’s kick the tires and light the fires coming to you from Angle Of Attack headquarters in Homer, Alaska years. Here’s your host and flight instructor, Chris Palmer.

Welcome everyone to AviatorCast. My name is Chris Palmer. I’m happy to have you here today. Thanks for joining me on the podcast. Wherever you’re coming from, whether that’s listening or watching on YouTube. I really appreciate you being here and I do hope that you get something out of this podcast, out of AviatorCast. And I know I’ve had some new episodes recently that have just been really impactful for people, so I’m excited to do even more of that and help you guys even more. See if we can’t repeat on those successes here.

So today we’re going to be focusing specifically on your path to success in instrument training. Now this is really important because I did a podcast on private pilot training and how to avoid study burnout. However, I want to talk about instrument training specifically and I’m wanting to make it more of a path of success than just how to avoid burnout. So that’s going to be what we’re talking about today. So if you’re wanting to get an instrument rating because someone said that it’s going to add extra safety for you, then this is a podcast that you’ll want to listen to.

And you’ve heard also that when you become an instrument pilot you become a better pilot, a more professional pilot, that’s certainly true as well. And maybe you’re not quite sure where to start because really the instrument training is quite different from private pilot training. So there will be a lot of new terms that you hear today, things that you haven’t thought of before and you go about this much differently than you went about your private pilot training. It’s actually very different. So there are ways to save money and do it more efficiently. And we’re going to go through some of those things today and also talk about some of the steps to get to where you want to go to become an instrument pilot, which is a really exciting and fun thing to do. I love instrument flying. It’s the pinnacle of flying. It really takes all of your skill and knowledge and mental energy to get it done.

So it’s quite a rewarding type of flying and I hope that you do go for this and get to experience instrument flying some day, but of course it’s going to take quite a bit of effort to actually get there. As we know with anything in aviation, you’ve got to work hard for it. So it’s interesting because instrument flying is so different from private pilot flying in that in private pilot you’re really just learning how to fly the airplane and get used to how it works and the basics of how to fly a plane. Now we take that and go the complete direction in instrument training, which often throws people for a loop, not literally, but now we’re doing 90% mental energy into the flying rather than the actual ability to fly the plane. You’ve already proved in your private pilot training that you can fly the airplane, so now you’re really putting your mental energy, or your thoughts, or your brainpower behind your flying and you are flying by numbers, by paths, by all sorts of different things within instrument flying. It takes quite a bit of effort to build up to that.

So now you’re going to prove that you can fly faster than the airplane… Think faster than the airplane flies is really what I wanted to say. So you can, now you’re going to prove that you can think ahead of the airplane several steps. That’s really one of the only ways to be successful in instrument training is you have to be… Or instrument flying, not just the training. You have to be thinking ahead of the airplane at all times and it might seem that when you’re under air traffic control it’s less restrictive. They’re telling you what to do, they’re telling you the exact procedures to do, et cetera. It actually becomes a lot easier because as you remember in private pilot you learned a lot about airspace, how all that works.

While when you’re an instrument, yes, you have to learn how to do certain procedures, how to fly them, fly by the numbers, all those things. And that is quite complex. But all that airspace system, this national airspace system, is built for instrument. So it actually simplifies things because you’re talking to people all the time. They keep passing you off to the next person and really a lot of the work is done for you in terms of how to go somewhere. Airspace becomes irrelevant and you know a defined path in the sky that you can keep to remain safe from rolling down the runway and taking off and climbing, to clear terrain, all the way to breaking out of the clouds just above the runway, when you’re doing an approach. That entire path is going to be protected for you.

I also want to say that instrument training sets itself apart, or instrument flying. Well, the training in this case sets itself apart in that it is a marathon or a journey, more of a marathon, than it is a race. Because a journey I think is going to be too slow, you’re not going to learn fast enough when you’re doing you’re doing instrument training. But it’s definitely a marathon more than a race, something that is doable. But it’s going to be a longterm thing that you need to get after and it’s just very different for people to absorb the whole new world of instrument training. So keep that in perspective that we need to think of instrument training longterm and getting to proficiency and confidence rather than just trying to pass a checkride. And that’s what my story was like, doing my instrument training. I actually ended up failing my initial checkride for instrument, for many reasons.

And actually I try to absorb as much responsibility, personal responsibility, as I can. But in my case there was a lot to do with the instructor for my instrument training. So it didn’t work out the first time, didn’t have a good instructor, didn’t have a good situation. We can talk about that another time. Maybe I can do an entire podcast on that story because I think it’s more a conversation about accelerated flight training programs and how they don’t work rather than it is something about instrument training in and of itself. So after that experience I said, “Hey, if I’m going to be an instrument pilot, I don’t just want to pass a checkride.” Right. Because I almost passed the checkride but I had no clue what I was doing. I didn’t really know how things were coming together. I could’ve gone up and finished off with one, or a couple procedures. But I just felt like, you know what, even if I do get this instrument, I’m not going to be using it.

So the next time I did my instrument training, and really I did come back in a whole new way to it, is I went through and did it until I was confident in doing it and knew that I knew what I was doing and that I could be using those skills in the real world. So then I didn’t rush myself and I just got into this mindset that hey, I am going to get this right rather than just getting it done. And that was a very different experience for me. And eventually I came to this place where I was literally on approach at this airport in Northern California and it all just clicked for me. My hands were moving where they needed to go. I was thinking several steps ahead of the airplane. I was doing everything I was supposed to be doing and I felt confident. I was ready for the checkride at that point. But a much different experience.

All right, so that’s where I would like you to get in instrument training. That’s where I think you should get, if you’re building up toward a commercial license, especially. Then you have plenty of time in between anyway to be working on that instrument training and getting it right the first time and building those hours toward your commercial training. So why not spend the time and get it right, rather than just getting it done. So that’s my advice on that to also have the ability and the confidence to go out and use that instrument rating once you get that ticket. So don’t rush it, just do it right, is my advice.

All right. Okay, so now let’s talk about how you prepare for your instrument training. This is going to be the same format that I went through in the private pilot area. We’re going to be going through starting with the ground school and the written test and the knowledge things first, and then moving into the flight training. I always think that that is the correct order of doing things. Instrument training is maybe a little bit different in that you could use a little bit of crossover at some point. But because there isn’t really a rush for us to get this done, then you can dip your toes into the flight training while you’re trying to figure out the written test stuff as well. At least get a little bit of a start and then dive deep into the written test and knowledge portion of everything before moving fully to the flight training.

So this type of advice for me is never going to change because I’ve been through several handful of different written tests and every time I did it in this order where I learned things first and then went to the airplane or went to the training and did it, it turned out much better for me personally. All right. Now I’ve been on the opposite side of that as well, where I’ve had many flight students that I’ve seen, both those who have prepared and done their initial knowledge, and those who haven’t. And I can tell you that it’s night and day between the two, that those that actually do their knowledge beforehand come to the instrument training knowing so much more about how everything is working. They’re not looking at charts for the first time, they’re not understanding all of the vocabulary that has to do with IFR for the first time. They’re 90, 80% ish and then the flight training will help them contextualize all of that training that they had been doing, all of that learning that they’d been doing, to then go the extra mile and really bring it all together.

So it takes a lot of time, it’s going to take more time with the ground stuff on instrument than it did with the private pilot. Just because it is so different. You learned a whole set of knowledge in private pilot and now it’s a completely separate set of knowledge for instrument. The charts are different, the communications are different, your performance and everything is different. The rules are different. There are handful of rules like your proficiency and and recency baseline, biannual flight review or just flight review now. And you’re takeoffs and landings that remain the same and your license and everything. And then there are some new recency requirements for instrument as well. So most everything regulation-wise for you as a pilot is the same, but then everything else, the flying, is just totally different. So you’re learning a whole new set of knowledge for IFR versus the VFR flying that you had done in the past.

All right? As always, be a good student through this process. Take notes, study more of what you don’t know, go out there and search for things that you want to know more about because there are those subjects that you will struggle with. I think in a way it takes a village to raise a pilot. So feel free to go out and get information from a bunch of different sources. Of course here at Angle Of Attack, we do have an instrument ground school. I’m really proud of it. I did a lot of instrument flying myself and feel like I really understand how it all works and fits together. So I’m a big picture guy and then I like to break down everything from there into the procedures and everything. So I feel like that is one of the best ground skills I have as an instrument and I really enjoy teaching it because I do love doing instrument, so if you want to check that out, go ahead.

Of course there are other people out there that do it as well and you can compare who does what. So go for that, okay? You got to do ground school at some point. Start here, especially as you’re building your time toward your license, you need to get 50 hours cross country time for instrument. You’re building time maybe toward commercial. There’s plenty of time to go through all this. Okay. There’s not going to be a huge rush and there’s no financial harm in just going slow and figuring this out right now. This is where there’s no drawbacks really to going through the training now. Whereas, if you go into your flight training and you don’t know any of this stuff, then you’re going to start paying for immensely as you’re learning these things for the first time with your instructors sitting there, training you on this stuff. Okay?

And then into the flight training. Now some of these things don’t change from what we did in private pilot. So the frequency in which you do your training flights is very important. Three times a week is ideal. There’s no harm in breaking this rule in instrument. Remember that this is a marathon and not a race. We are chipping away at it and really getting confident and proficient. So if you need to spread that out in maybe fewer flights and more at home study time, that’s definitely possible too. Just absorb it and get it right. Now as some point there is going to be a big push to get it done and that’s when in the end you’re going to have to be flying at least three times a week or maybe every day or doing something actively every day to prepare for the checkride and get yourself to that pinnacle of knowledge and proficiency, which is definitely something that we want to do for any license that we go through through the FAA. All right.

Now a big part of instrument training is that you can use a flight simulator to actually log time and it says this in the regulations and you can log up to 20 hours of your instrument flight time in an AATD. Now there are some different rules for lesser models of flight simulators, but an advanced aviation training device you can log up to 20 hours. Now a simulator is incredibly valuable because you can go through the repetitive tasks of certain things that are just challenging for people to grasp. So you can do that final approach course or that hold entry many different times in a row rather than in an airplane where you have to fly all the way back to the start to do it again, which is very time consuming. You will be verifying this eventually in an airplane, but why not do most of it in a simulator where it’s cheap and you’re not burning fuel and you can repeat those tasks that are holdups for people in instrument flying.

Now that’s 20 hours. Okay, but what about the non-loggable time in a simulator? It’s still incredibly valuable. You could be sitting next to an instructor learning even beyond the 25 hours. You may not be able to apply it to your training, but it’s still incredibly valuable, so just think of that. Bringing a simulator into this and that’s what you can see already that is so different from private pilot training.

Now there’s another aspect of this to building time toward your instrument which is flying with a safety pilot. Okay, so a safety pilot is say a friend or a colleague or an acquaintance that can sit in the right seat. They are a private pilot, they’re licensed, everything, they’re legit. And they are going to spot traffic for you and be a safety pilot over their VFR basically, while you sit left seat with a view limiting device and do simulated instrument and fly the airplane that way. So the really cool thing about this is that you both get to log PIC time. So one of the best people you can find as a safety pilot is a commercial pilot that is trying to build up to those 250 hour minimums for their license that want to split the costs. They actually get to log this time as PIC time. You get to log the time as PIC time and you are both building hours at the same time. Splitting the costs. It’s pretty cool.

Now I know some instructors, and I think I definitely jump on this bandwagon, that say that you can build bad habits by doing the safety pilot stuff too much. And so I think having guidance and direction from an instructor is very helpful to make sure that you are not building bad habits in instrument. So maybe you actually start a little bit of instrument training first, get some guidance on how to scan the instruments, how to do certain things, and then you move into building that time with the safety pilot, buckling down on the simulator with your instructor. At this point your written test for sure has to be done. And then as you get to the end of building those hours, that’s when you do that big push for the three times a week to finally push and get your instrument checkride done.

So that is the flight training for instrument in a nutshell. That’s how I do it. Of course, you can go and look at the regulations for this in your FAR. So you’ll see the regulation that says what type of experience you need to build as an instrument pilot, how many hours, et cetera. That’s really important. Now I do have something coming out soon called Checkride ACE and I talked to you guys about this. It’s a checkride preparation program. That’s going to be fairly short but very to the point about what you need for your checkride and what to look out for and what it’ll be like. I will be doing it for a private, commercial, instrument and CFI in that order. So I will be doing an instrument Checkride ACE and I will be teaching you in that product about the time you need, about how to build this time and more depth and some more tips and tricks along those lines.

So that’s specific to the instrument and I just wanted to bring that up now because even though I’m recording this podcast now, that’s not quite done yet by the time this podcast releases that may actually be out. So go ahead and go to and sign up for that. And then I’ll send you an email when it’s ready if you so choose, but I’m going to make it really affordable. I just think that not a lot of people know what’s going on when they’re ready for the checkride and ready to go to really check themselves and verify that they’ve set everything up, but to really have that knowledge ahead of time through your training is going to be really helpful.

Okay. One last note here. This is completely out of left field, but I think it’s really important that you fly with an instructor as well that is willing, if the conditions present themselves, to fly in actual conditions. So you can see what those actual instrument meteorological conditions are like in a single engineer plane. To have that in your training is invaluable and the more you can do it and just do real instrument training. Real instrument rather than simulated, while you’re in the airplane is very helpful. Of course, I still very much support the flight simulator, the AATD or whatever you can do to get some simulator time. Even if he can’t legally log that time, it’s all going to be very helpful for you.

So that’s everything in a nutshell. This is a pattern that I’ve had in other other podcasts. So I talked about the private pilot already. This is the instrument. There’s going to be another one for commercial and CFI where I’ll talk about the specifics for those as well. But you got to start by studying on the ground. There’s so much to learn, especially with instrument. You got to start by studying on the ground, get all that out of the way. You’re going to save money when you move into your flight training. Do your flight training in a smart way and build it correctly using a simulator, using a safety pilot, having a good quality instructor that’s going to take you into those actual conditions, that’s going to teach you instrument well. And I think you will have success at this, I really know you will. So that’s how I feel in a nutshell about it.

Now again, as our overarching, most important, parts of this is I have some tips for success. So again, don’t rush this process for instrument. Just do it right. You’ve got to build that time for commercial anyway, so you may as well just take it slow, make sure this really settles in and you really understand how things are working. Proficiency and confidence is what you’re ultimately going for with instrument conditions. Dedicate yourself to the big picture. I talked about how in my ground school, I do the big picture. That’s because that first time I did my instrument training, I didn’t understand the big picture. Also because I don’t think my instructor really understood the big picture. Why are we doing things the way we’re doing them in instrument conditions? How is the national airspace system working? How are we moving from one procedure to the next? What is expected of us? What do we expect of them? Et cetera.

If you understand that, instrument becomes so easy and the actual skill of flying, everything isn’t that hard. It’s really just understanding how everything fits together. So one of the reasons you become such a better pilot when you become an instrument pilot is because you become a stickler for the details. So be really big on the details. Nailing those altitudes exactly. Nailing those numbers exactly. This is going to refine who you are. So that’s everything in a nutshell. And if you think of instrument training in a safety standpoint, so imagine that you get your instrument rating and you are ready to go to the next step. Okay? You are going to take your checkride and you are going to fly in instrument conditions right after your checkride and you’re going to take your family somewhere and you know that the weather is totally bad from takeoff all the way to landing.

Now you as an instrument pilot, you need to know that with your blood on the line from lifting those wheels off the ground, you can’t see anything. Okay? That’s what we’re assuming here, hypothetically, that you know how to protect yourself in every way through the procedures and things that you know and learn throughout that entire flight path from liftoff, all the way through until touchdown. That is what being a confident and proficient instrument pilot is all about. You need to know how that process actually works and do that. All right? That is who you are going to be or what you’re able to do when you get your instrument ticket, that add on to your private pilot license. Very important that you keep that in mind. That is how everything works. Okay? And you need to be ready to do that and that’s going to take a while to understand how to do all of that.

So that is it. I hope you guys enjoyed this path to success in instrument training. Go ahead and leave a comment. Tell me what your favorite part was in this episode. Maybe something that you learned. You can do that not only through email, but you can tell me on on Instagram or Facebook or YouTube, wherever you’re at. Comment, let me know what your favorite part of this episode was and also give it a like if you will, share it if you will, whatever. If you want to do that. But thanks for being here. I’m glad you are learning and growing. That’s really exciting for me. I hope you keep doing it. That’s the best thing you could give to me, even more than a like or a share or whatever. Is just that you’re out there, you’re getting after it, you’re doing it. That is the biggest thank you you could ever give to me. So keep doing it. All right, and until next time, throttle on.

We sincerely thank you for joining us on AviatorCast. Please subscribe through your favorite podcast service and leave a review. Check out more flight training resources at There you can find this podcast, many free aviation training videos, as well as online ground school for private instrument, commercial and CFI. Got a checkride coming up? Checkride ACE from Angle Of Attack is your ultimate companion. Guiding you through the process so you can conquer your big day. Thanks once again for joining us on AviatorCast. Turn left, contact ground point Niner.



Chris Palmer

Chief Flight Instructor and President of Angle of Attack. Founded in 2006.


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