The most valuable rating

Last weekend, Debbie and I traveled to Maine to visit a friend. Two days before, I had headed up to Vermont to give a talk to the Burlington PHP group. Both of these flights had something in common: the flight conditions made visual flight alone impossible. My instrument rating was the most important difference in each of those trips.

Photo credit Joe Fox.

Photo credit Joe Fox.

They say that the private pilot certificate is a license to learn, and an instrument rating is a license to kill yourself. While I appreciate the humor, I disagree with the overall perception: the instrument rating is certainly not to be taken lightly, but in my case it’s my license to make my certificate useful.

The view from above the clouds is something special, and something not everyone gets a chance to see. Watching the clouds break and the runway come into view is something that is indescribable. And the ability to say to my wife, “yes, we can go”, is invaluable.

For the private pilots on the edge of getting their instrument rating, they should definitely do it. The instrument rating is more than about flying through the clouds or being a better pilot; it’s about the ability to pass through a thin layer, climb on top, descend on an instrument approach and make a safe landing in conditions that are less than perfect. It’s almost impossible to fly long distances without crossing weather patterns.

My instrument rating is my most valuable rating. I’m thankful to have it.