One of the things that sticks with me from my instrument training is the saying of my flight instructor Meredith, who taught me “each time you fly, fly like an airline pilot!” What she meant in that is follow the checklist, be procedural in how you approach aviation, follow the rules, and be methodical. This approach to flying, especially on instruments has meant a lot to me as I’ve developed my piloting skills.
The day you earn your private pilot’s certificate, people are quick to tell you that you’ve just received your “license to learn.” And with a little more than 40 hours under your belt, you’re keenly aware of how much you just don’t yet know. In fact, the most terrifying flight of my life was probably the short hop from Frederick to Gaithersburg whilst the ink dried on my temporary certificate.
Last night I got a chance to fly again, the first time I was the flying pilot since February 14th. An instructor and I piled into my airplane for a ride to Tipton, then over to Martin State, and back to Gaithersburg. It had been a long time since I had done any kind of night landings; the FAA requires that pilots perform three landings at night to a full stop in order to carry passengers in the dark. My goal was to get current, and to gain some valuable experience.
There are many rights of passage for pilots: the first solo, the reciept of the first certificate, the first instrument flight.
For most pilots, they never fly as often as they like and the flights they do fly are never as long as they desire. But for most pilots, they try to get out and fly once or twice a month, sometimes more or less depending on their schedules.
Yesterday, exactly one week after receiving my instrument rating, I filed an IFR flight plan from Gaithersburg to Lancaster, intending to give this “single pilot IFR” thing a try. It was a severe clear kind of day, so there wasn’t going to be any actual attitude instrument flying; instead, it was a chance to test out my ability to obtain, follow and understand clearances and other important elements of the instrument flight rules system. Plus, it was a great opportunity to take a solo flight under IFR – something you don’t get to do until after your instrument rating is complete.
A little more than a year after hearing the words, “you’re a pilot now”, I earned my instrument rating and thus the right to fly through the clouds, rain and other weather. I took my instrument airplane checkride with Robert (Bob) Gawler at Gaithersburg, and despite being the more difficult checkride, it was a worthwhile experience.
Last week, I had absolutely perfect flying weather and I decided that I would take a trip to visit a coworker in Raleigh, NC. Since FAR 61.65 (d)(1) requires any pilot applying for an instrument rating to have 50 hours of cross country time as pilot in command, it’s important for pilots to find every opportunity they can to accumulate cross country time. A round trip to Raleigh is 4 hours, offering plenty of opportunity to rack up some hours.