April 06, 2004

Why Me?

Why am I doing the instrument rating? What do I hope to get out of it? I think most people do it for one or more of the following reasons:

  • As yet another step on the way to becoming a career pilot, usually just before doing their commercial rating then becoming a CFI.

  • As a way to be able to fly when the weather's not nicely VMC -- an instrument rating greatly increases the scope for flying, especially in a place like Coastal Northern California, with its coastal stratus.

  • As a way to improve their flying skills and safety levels in general.

For me, the first reason doesn't really apply (although I'll admit that I have this sneaking desire sometimes to become an instructor or a lowly freight dog... we shall see). The second reason's a particularly strong one around here -- for months on end during summer, late spring, and early autumn the coastal fog closes Oakland airport (my home base) to VFR for hours of each day, sometimes all day. It's clear ten kilometres inland, and 1,500' straight up, but you need that IFR clearance to get out safely and legally. And yes, I'm one of those who believes that an instrument rating helps in all aspects of flying, and not just because you get better at holding altitudes and headings, or because you can cope with suddenly not being able to see the horizon or the ground. You get a better understanding of the system as a whole, and a better insight into what other pilots and planes are doing or thinking, and why.

But the real reason -- as with learning to fly in the first place, and starting aerobatics training -- is simply curiosity. What's it take to get an instrument rating? What's it like? Can I do it? Etc. I'm more motivated by pure curiosity than most people seem to realise.

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