10-Day IFR In My DA-40 NG
As a newly-minted instrument pilot, I rank the AFIT training experience as one of the best aviation experiences I’ve ever had. The ten-day format made learning the required skills easier and developed them into habits. Beyond meeting the minimums, the full days provided lots of time for building out a fuller picture of instrument flying and how it works in the real world. At the end, my check ride went as smoothly as one could ever hope.
There is lots to learn in the IFR world – procedures, flying skills, radios, instruments, etc. The beauty of the format is that there is no time to lose a nascent skill between lessons. You learn a proper radio call on the morning flight and do it again that afternoon and then again the next morning. Meltdown doing holding procedures in the morning? Back we went to the same place after lunch to get it right. Had there been a week-long gap between sessions, the experiences and skills would have faded.
Spending 8-10 hours per day with an experienced CFII, one can’t help but learn a lot beyond the basics. For example, at one point my airplane displayed an engine warning light. Working through that issue was not on the instrument syllabus, but given we were in the middle of the program, we strategized how to handle a stop at the shop for a quick repair and incorporated it into the required cross country. A weekly lesson format would have ended with “let me know when you get it fixed.” There is no substitute for “real world” experience and when you are committed to a ten-day program, the real world is more apt to show up!
Check ride preparation is more than pilot training; there’s the required documentation. Given that these guys do this training over and over, they know how to prepare the paperwork in their sleep. On check ride day, my CFII walked with me into the DPE’s office, stood by as the documentation was reviewed (available to fix anything if necessary), and got the check ride started on the right foot. Contrast that to flying to an unfamiliar airport, hoping the paperwork meets any idiosyncratic preferences of the DPE, and starting the oral after going through an audit. Much better to fully focus on the oral and flight without worrying about logbook gotchas.
For me, the program was a smashing success. The non-stop nature enhanced my learning and created a cool life experience. I gained some valuable judgement and got through the check ride relatively unscathed. Bravo!