The IR (Instrument Rating) is probably the most important course towards the airline flying. This is where we're taught all the procedures flown on instruments (and not visually unlike the CPL), flying in all kinds of awful weather.
My flightmate and I started the course the day following my CPL Skill Test. Not much of a break indeed.
We jumped straight onto the FNPT1 simulator (Procedures Trainer) for the first 10h of the course.
The course in itself is designed to teach someone who's never done any Instruments Flying before, from the very biginning. However, as part of the CPL course we did 10 hours instruments, so some of the basis was already acquired. We skipped that and started off with some general NDB/VOR tracking and procedure turns (cf flight sheet below), and the 2nd flight was about holds and ILS Approaches.
Within 10 hours, we managed to cover Bournemouth 26 and 08 hold procedures, ILS and NDB Approaches, Bristol Lulsgate, Bristol Filton, Exeter (both runways, NDB/DME, NDB timed (NDB out) and ILS procedures) and an IFR route (Bournemouth -> Alderney).
It all went really fast, and our very experienced flight instructor (ex airline pilot and crew selection examiner) knows exactly how to increase the level on each flight so that we never get any relaxing time in any part of the flight. We were soon thrown at all kinds of systems failures, emergencies, flight plan amendements, etc ...
Then came the much nicer FNPT2 simulator, still a procedure trainer but type specific this time, looking a bit more alike the Beechcraft 76 Duchess with a decent visual.
That part of the course lasts 20 hours and ends with a sim check which we'll take on monday next week. We basically simulated the flights we'll do on the real aeroplane, from start-up to finish. We mostly used it to get to understand how to fly procedures, how to use the equipement, the ATC, get in the habit of decision making, reading plates, etc ... In that regard, it is really good at teaching us procedure related stuff. But to be honest the flying in itself is not that realistic. It's not a motion sim, the flight enveloppe differs quite a bit from the real aircraft, so do attitudes and power settings, engine failures are pretty unrealistic, but the aim is simply to teach students the drills and the procedures before they move onto the plane where the workload will get much higher.
We did some more procedures, navigations, airway joins, DME arcs, etc ...
PAT (Professional Air Training) is currently the only school in the UK to teach Rnav (GNSS) approaches and we tried that at Exeter.
After 20~25 hours, there's not much more to learn from such a simulator if you're confident with what you've done so far, there's no point really in doing the same procedures all over again and learning them by heart. Most students actually struggle through this part of the IR since everything is new, but to be honest both Steve and I were well ahead of the game, we really enjoyed it and kept up with the tough level our instructor was looking for. He basically took us a step beyond that of the CAA, altitude holding went from the IR minima of +/- 100ft to his minima of +/- 20ft ... Most navaid trackings were down to the degree and decision making became soon entirely ours.
The joy that results from doing a good flight, trying to stay ahead of the plane most of the time, and breaking through clouds at minima to land in some deep fog on a runway far from home, is just incredible. Most people won't get it, but when aviation has been your thing since you were in nappies, reaching that point (quite quickly frankly) is basically achieving a dream.
Having completed the course within 25hr instead of the standard 30, we had a chance to do some LOFT (Line Oriented Flight Training), AP coupled approaches, SIDs (Standard Instrument Departure) and STARs (Standard Terminal Arrival Route).
IR flights chronicles due to start next week, with hopefully some nice pictures and videos from up there.
Airbone life continues...
Some of the pictures include the visit of an ex PAT student pilot who's now flying the Citation Mustang, and a backseat on Sarah's flight to Cardiff.