These are the valuable lessons that are often neglected, glossed over, or completely missed during IFR training
Things You Wish Your Instructor Had Taught You
Too often, IFR training is focused on passing the checkride. We’ve seen this first hand and confirmed it with thousands of IFR pilots who have purchased our training programs over the years.
Getting the rating is a tall task for the student and CFII alike, so it’s no wonder important concepts, techniques and procedures get short-changed during IFR training.
Unfortunately, these missing lessons can make the difference between struggling to fly IFR, and flying with confidence. This video program fills these gaps by explaining the things you wish someone had explained completely in the first place. We cover the things every pilot needs to know to comfortably fly IFR.
Ground Lessons and In-Flight Demonstrations
The missing lessons videos are presented in a simple format. Each video provides a detailed explanation of a specific technique or procedure, then a demonstration on the simulator shows you the technique in practice.
End-to-end flight videos use detailed preflight briefings as a teaching opportunity, followed by analysis of each step of the flight as it happens—all with live ATC communications. This combination of ground lessons and flying in the simulator will help you understand the material at a deeper level.
These missing IFR lessons come from an instructor’s experience and perspective. So even if you’re a CFII there are pro tips and techniques you may never have seen. If you’re an experienced instrument pilot, the demonstrations may reveal the fix to a problem that has plagued you for years. If you’re a rusty IFR pilot, this is a great first step toward getting back in the clouds, and if you’re an instrument student you’ll be light years ahead in learning IFR.
While some of this material will be a review, much of it will be new knowledge you’ll wish you had when you first got your rating.
The foundation of Instrument flight is not the instrument scan. It’s mastery of aircraft performance. Countless pilots have wasted valuable training hours—and struggle to this day—because their instructor skipped this first critical step. Here’s the step-by-step process for creating the essential performance profiles for each airplane you fly.
Meet Your Instructor
CFII, PilotWorkshops Course Designer/Producer
Ryan works on the course development team at PilotWorkshops and is involved in the design and development of our online training programs. He is also an active flight instructor specializing in instrument flight and is a flight simulator expert. He currently instructs out of Wausau, WI and has experience doing remote flight instruction via simulators.
Ryan was the driving force behind the development of several PilotWorkshops online courses, including IFR: The Missing Lessons and Advanced IFR. Ryan is also a contributing expert for PilotWorkshops’ IFR Mastery series and is a regular participant in the Instructor’s Roundtable. He teaches ground schools, runs ATC communications courses for both IFR and VFR pilots, and has developed curriculum for a variety of IFR proficiency programs, and a simulator-centered high school aviation program.
“I think everyone preparing for the Instrument Instructor practical test should watch these videos. These are critical concepts that every new Instrument pilot needs to be taught.”
Doug Stewart (Designated Pilot Examiner and National CFI of the Year)
Part I: Demonstration Flights of IFR Fundamentals
The pinnacle of instrument training is flying approaches—and that focus can leave core skills shortchanged. If you ever struggle under IFR, the fix is probably one of the items on this list.
The Power of Performance Profiles
Instrument pilots must have a solid understanding of their aircraft’s performance profile. Countless pilots have wasted valuable training hours—and struggle to this day—because their instructor skipped this first critical step. Here’s the step-by-step process for creating the essential performance profiles for each airplane you fly.
Secrets of the Effortless Scan
A solid instrument scan is more science than art. It’s an equation, built by using specific instruments and relationships to reveal specific information. A purposeful scan presents more data in less time, leaving you spare brain cycles for advanced tasks. The details are slightly different for traditional gauges or a glass panel, so we cover both.
How to Handfly with the Precision of an Autopilot
Anyone can fly straight-and-level behind an attitude indicator with a little practice. It’s the transitions from one flight profile to another that start a chain reaction of distraction and leave the pilot miles behind the airplane. We review old-school exercises that make transitions second nature, even when done simultaneously with ATC communications or programming a GPS.
What VOR Navigation Can Teach GPS Pilots
Once upon a time, the only moving map instrument pilots had was the one between their ears. This was called “situational awareness,” and it required proactive thinking which made for better instrument pilots. Today, many pilots fly reactively because their situational awareness is their moving map. When you can fly with nothing but needles, you’re even more capable in a GPS cockpit.
Finer Points and Gotchas of GPS Enroute Navigation
Some IFR clearances just don’t fit neatly into that GPS flight plan. Others start simply enough, but then get complicated with a change in the air—right when you’re at your busiest. See how to break down these challenges into manageable parts and use various button-pushing tricks to make your GPS handle whatever ATC dishes out.
The Right Way to Fly Partial Panel
The partial panel scan is often taught as a scan with an instrument or two missing. That’s a mistake. If the instrument scan is a purposeful equation then any missing element can be inferred from the remaining ones. Doing it wrong leads to bad habits that bleed through to even a full-panel scan. Doing it right helps with the loss of any instrument or system, even in glass cockpits.
Hold Entries and Circuits in the Real World
GPS approaches brought hold entries back into the mainstream with hold-in-lieu-of-procedure-turns. But the same GPS tells you how to enter, and nearly ubiquitous radar coverage means you rarely pause. However, suspended sequencing and random holds do happen, so you need a simple way to remember how without screwing up.
Essential Skills for Tracking Any Arc
The pilot-navigated transition to final offered by DME arcs has been largely displaced by GPS. Yet that same GPS makes radius-to-fix arcs a feature of more and more approaches. Here are the essential points and pitfalls of any arc, whether you fly it with old-school DME or with an IFR GPS in the panel and an iPad on your lap.
Tips for the Spectrum of Glass Cockpits
The term “Glass Panel” is used on everything from an aftermarket digital attitude indicator with airspeed and altitude tapes to an integrated, multi-screen system. Each installation has its own best practices and failure modes, but there are some common techniques that help on virtually all digital systems, with everything working; or even when some components go offline.
Flight Profiles for High-Performance or Two Engines
If you fly a multi-engine aircraft (or even a high-performance, retractable-gear single) you need a more extensive set of numbers than a fixed-gear trainer. Here’s how to generate those numbers and transition between configurations for both normal ops and with one engine shut down.
Part II: The Best of Groundschool Q and A
Ever notice how the most valuable insights from ground school came from the questions you asked your instructor at the end of class? We collected just those questions and their detailed answers.
The Most Neglected Aspect of IFR: Departures
What’s the correct procedure when no departure is published? It depends on whether or not the airport has a published approach. How do I use a visual climb over airport (VCOA)? You employ it as an alternative to an obstacle departure procedure. Departures are just as important as approaches, and you can get in just as much trouble by not understanding their nuances.
Practical Knowledge for Instrument Approaches
What instrument approach will you fly more than any other? The visual. What’s the most powerful tool for a savvy IFR pilot? The contact approach. Understanding the procedures, privileges, and pitfalls of real-world IFR approaches gets the full utility out of IFR. Other key approach topics include approach chart secrets, cold-weather ops, the structure of approach clearances, and what to do when equipment stops working.
Part III: Demonstrations of Setting Up, Briefing, and Executing Approaches
Too many instructors give lip service to briefing approaches, but never demonstrate a practical way to execute the technique in the real world. Here’s a briefing method you can actually use, demonstrated on three different kinds of approaches.
How to Fly by WIRE on Any Approach
The WIRE briefing method gets the most import parts of the approach dialed in right away, followed by all the details you need and none of the fluff. It includes, however, often overlooked items such as creating real-world missed approach points given actual conditions versus the published minimums. The technique gets demonstrated on an old-school VOR approach with no GPS or moving map available—which is a great way to keep your mental map sharp.
Getting Vectors While Maintaining Options
The workhorse of published approaches is an ATC vector onto an ILS or LPV. The simplicity and routine is also a trap unless you’re prepared for last-minute changes, crossing restrictions, nuances of GPS/VLOC guidance, and requests to fly the approach faster (or slower) than you planned.
Practical Procedures for GPS Approaches
GPS simplifies instrument approaches—if you understand all the variations and subtleties that accompany different approach designs. This example combines common GPS approach features with a few important variations, including an unusual arrival sector, an LNAV+V surprise, and a curving missed approach in mountainous terrain.
Part IV: Scenario-Based, End-to-End IFR Flights
IFR in practice all comes together when you experience a flight from the initial clearance through the landing at your destination. These four briefings and flights combine towered and non-towered, rural and urban, on and off-route, and normal plus emergency ops; all with live ATC interaction from startup to shutdown.
The IFR System on a Busy TEC Route (Briefing)
Tower Enroute Control (TEC) routes offer an end-to-end IFR flight in miniature with almost no downtime. Unless you trained in a busy IFR corridor, you may never have found and flown one. This briefing uses an L.A. area TEC route to discuss departure procedures, departure alternates, use of visual conditions to hone your IFR flying, and real-world iPad and checklist setup.
The IFR System on a Busy TEC Route (Flight)
The entire flight is shown for each phase of the TEC route flight. There’s step-by-step analysis of programming (and reprogramming) the GPS, practical use of flows, briefings, and abbreviated checklists (including unplanned interruptions). It also includes tips for using instrument bugs and performance profiles in practice.
Rural Departure to a Downtown Arrival (Briefing)
Planning more ambitious flights requires a structured system to ensure no details are missed. This is applied for a flight from an obstacle-laden, non-towered departure to a complex airspace arrival. Ambiguity is removed—before takeoff—by establishing minimums specific to this departure and the planned arrivals. ForeFlight is used for planning both route and requirements.
Rural Departure to a Downtown Arrival (Flight)
The flight starts with a non-towered departure procedure that includes suspending of GPS sequencing, using ETAs for planning, and tricks for amending the GPS flight plan to prevent errors. Adjusting performance profiles for non-precision approaches and best practices for advisory vertical guidance, crossing restrictions, and continuing below MDA are demonstrated.
VFR Becomes a Pop-Up and Circle-to-Land (Briefing)
Sometimes you need an IFR clearance on the fly, and sometimes you can’t land straight-in. This briefing walks through the steps for pop-up IFR and reviews circling do’s and don’ts. It includes strategies for safety when no straight-in minimums are published.
VFR Becomes a Pop-Up and Circle-to-Land (Flight)
This flight presents tips for finding the right ATC frequency, reporting in, and using the GPS for approach planning. It also includes requesting changes to clearances from ATC—after a chart review to ensure it will work, cockpit resource tips, adjusting standard flight profiles to meet the current need, and considerations for maneuvering in low visibility.
Things Don't Go As Planned in Hard IMC (Briefing)
When ceilings are only a couple hundred feet high at your departure and destination, planning for contingencies is essential. Foreflight is used as a power-planning tool in guessing the right SID, picking a departure alternate, and ensuring both a legal and practical destination alternate is available. Spoiler alert: Those two destination alternates are different airports.
Things Don't Go As Planned in Hard IMC (Flight)
This flight starts with an example of “Climb via SID,” including vectors off and back onto the published departure. The approach plan changes once due to ATC and a second time due to an in-flight emergency. The logic for picking the best diversion is talked through and several slick GPS tricks are demonstrated that make a change of plans on the fly simpler and safer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. How do I access the IFR Missing Lessons videos?
A. If you have an internet connection, you can watch the videos online without downloading them. However, you can also move the video files from the optional USB drive (using your computer) to your iPad which will allow you to watch the videos without an internet connection. We provide step-by-step directions for moving these files to your iPad.
Q: Will my online access ever expire?
A: No. Once you register your login credentials, they will never expire. You will always have access to the program.
Q: Can I download the video files onto my iPad?
A: If you have an internet connection, you can watch the videos online without downloading them. However, you can also move the video files from the optional USB drive to your iPad (using your computer and iTunes) which will allow you to watch the videos without an internet connection. We provide step-by-step directions for moving these files to your iPad.
Q. Can I access the videos from more than one computer or device?
A. Yes – with your login info, you can access the site from any device as often as you want for personal use.
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IFR: The Missing Lessons
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