Wildhorsesracing

To IFR or Not IFR - that is the question.

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I have been flying VFR for a few years(8) now and usually have plenty of time whenever I travel in my Mooney.  I spent last summer learning to fly tailwheel and aerobatics in a biplane.  Fellow pilots at the airport and my CFI have been hounding me for a year or so to get my IFR rating.  I am having a hard time justifying the cost of the IFR rating just to be able to fly on a cloudy day.  Here's what I calculated:

Using my Mooney - needs an IFR Upgrade: ~$8-10k (8-10 AMUs?)

-or- Renting an IFR equipped plane: ~$8-10k

plus IFR Training: ~$2-4k

Total for an IFR Rating: $10-14k

Right now I always plan extra days when I fly cross country and wait for good weather.  I have heard horror stories of pilots who fly IFR infrequently (like I would) and end up spiralling in (JFK Jr?).  I am trying to justify paying $10-14k or more just for the privilege of flying in and above the clouds. So far I have been able to fly anywhere I want as long as I have patience with the weather. 

Tell me why I should spend the money for the IFR rating.*

 

*and please go into more detail than "it'll make you a better pilot" 'cause nothing hones your precision piloting skills like tailwheels and aerobatics.

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What equipment do you need to upgrade? You don't need a gps for IFR for instance.

How about that it entirely changes how you look at the sky?

That a VFR pilots risk with inadvertent IMC is way worse than being a rusty instrument pilot. FYI JFK junior wasn't instrument rated - kind of proves the point...

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Its more than just being able to fly on a cloudy day.  For most IFR rated pilots, we will tell you its a learning course in being a safer pilot.  Doesn't mean that not having IFR you aren't safe, but you pick up skills sets that will help you in all of your flying.  To include VFR in VMC.  

You learn a different set of skills.   Just like when you learned T/W or aero.  Neither of which is really a Mooney skill set - but I bet you learned some precision landings in the T/W and that will carry over to the Mooney.  Aero - learned how to make the aircraft do exactly what you wanted to do.  IFR - its the same, you will learn precision flying.  MDA of 720 ft means 720 ft. 

At the end of the day you can fly VFR all you want.  You can even fly IFR in VMC, in my Mooney I currently restrict myself to at least 3000/5 which is very conservative.

I also know that when the weather is not as forecast I am going to be ok.  For me - thats worth 10k.

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For me it's To VFR or Not to VFR.  I'm so used to ATC and IFR flying that a VFR flight is more difficult.  Airspace?  Class B? TFR's?  No problem IFR as I know ATC will keep me outta trouble.  Years ago I flew a Maule from Atlanta to Grand Rapids.  Filed ifr on a blue bird day. When asked "why" by ATC I told them I was a chicken airline pilot who needed his hand held by ATC.  Lol.  After a few chuckles he then cleared me direct to destination.  

Get your instrument ticket.  A good pilot never stops training.  There are so many different things you can do in aviation.  You've improved your stick and rudder with aerobatics and tail wheel flying.  Why not expand your capabilities even more?  You'll enjoy the confidence knowing what you can accomplish if needed.  It's like buying an insurance policy that's actually fun and useful.  

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I'll join the chorus.

The IR is about increased aircraft systems knowledge, increased procedural knowledge, increased pilot proficiency, greater ease in dealing with complex airspace, and increased options, not about flying on a really miserable day. If anything your weather decisions become more difficult than as a VFR pilot, but you learn the tools to make them. And most IFR flights in most parts of the country are rarely mostly in the clouds or to low minimums. The en route portions mostly look like this (an overcast, drizzly day on the ground at KTTA)

Personally, I got my rating in New England where a really needed it. About a week later, I move to Colorado where I rarely used it at all. But it was still the best investment I made in flying. (and, now that I'm in North Carolina, I'm using it again)

one example when I was still in Colorado might illustrate. We were planning a week in Florida and decided to look into renting an airplane to visit friends and family there. Two of the three legs of the trip were strict VFR, but my rating gave me the option of filing IFR on the last leg, from the Palm Beach area back to KORL just north of the Class B primary. Dealing with an unfamiliar Class B VFR vs filing IFR wasn't too difficult a decision.

 

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7 hours ago, Wildhorsesracing said:

I have been flying VFR for a few years(8) now and usually have plenty of time whenever I travel in my Mooney.  I spent last summer learning to fly tailwheel and aerobatics in a biplane.  Fellow pilots at the airport and my CFI have been hounding me for a year or so to get my IFR rating.  I am having a hard time justifying the cost of the IFR rating just to be able to fly on a cloudy day.  Here's what I calculated:

Using my Mooney - needs an IFR Upgrade: ~$8-10k (8-10 AMUs?)

-or- Renting an IFR equipped plane: ~$8-10k

plus IFR Training: ~$2-4k

Total for an IFR Rating: $10-14k

Right now I always plan extra days when I fly cross country and wait for good weather.  I have heard horror stories of pilots who fly IFR infrequently (like I would) and end up spiralling in (JFK Jr?).  I am trying to justify paying $10-14k or more just for the privilege of flying in and above the clouds. So far I have been able to fly anywhere I want as long as I have patience with the weather. 

Tell me why I should spend the money for the IFR rating.*

 

*and please go into more detail than "it'll make you a better pilot" 'cause nothing hones your precision piloting skills like tailwheels and aerobatics.

Here's a great justification: you GET to buy and learn how to use 10 AMU's in gizmos for your plane!

like mentioned above- it's just another skill set.  There are three possible attitude based ways of flyingin aviation- you've done #1, and maybe #3 as well.

1:  visual based attitude flying (i.e. Aerobatics, VFR flight)

2:  instrument based attitude flying (this is what the instrument rating is all about- flying without the need to navigate and maintain control of your aircraft via outside the cockpit visual reference )

3:  relative position based attitude flying (formation flight.  No FAA based qualification for this per se, but it is its own form of flying- and if your flight lead and you are instrument rated, he can get you through clouds, while you fly formation without ever looking inside the cockpit... although I don't think I've seen any civilians flying form through cloud decks). 

All three will make you a more broadly skilled pilot, but an instrument rating and formation training certainly aren't "mandatory" for safe flight.  although an IR does cut down your risk of becoming a statistic in the Nall report (VFR into IMC)... it does open the door for you to become a statistic in other columns (accident occurred while on instrument flight plan, etc).

the question you need to ask yourself is this:  how do you want to spend the next 50 or so hours of your time flying?  Working towards learning a new skill set in aviation, or using the skill sets you already have to achieve your mission(s).

aerobatics and tail wheel flight home your stick and rudder skills tremendously, as you mentioned, but IR flight requires precision in different areas, such as the approach, holding, and enroute planning.  They truely are different skill sets... and I've seen precise instrument pilots that struggle with aerobatics, and talented aerobatic pilots that struggle with instruments....

Edited by M016576
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I would also like to know what equipment you have.  I would highly recommend an IFR rating.  I'm a dentist and shutting down a day costs a lot of production and aggravates patients.  I cancelled so many flights because of cloudy days in the forecast for the return trip.  Since my IFR, I've cancelled a few trips but I'll bet it's down by 80%.  I am by no means a hard IFR flyer.  I have very conservative minimums, but it's nice to plan a trip and know that the odds are pretty good that I'm flying that day.  I read threads about VFR pilots who rent and the frustration they have getting a chance to fly.  I know I'm lucky to be on the other end of that spectrum.

I fly IFR almost all the time.  I love being in the system and having ATC helping me watch for traffic, especially around the Atlanta Bravo.  You also don't have to worry about restricted areas; they will divert you if necessary.  It will take you forever to recoup, but it also saved me 5% on my insurance.  lol

I know you said not to use the "it makes you a better pilot" reason, but it really did in my case.  By the time I was done, I was much better at controlling my speed and altitudes.  My landings also improved.  I'm based at a non-towered airport, and my radio skills were pretty crappy.  The training forced me to improve that, too.  It was hard work and $$, but it's one of the best investments I've made as a pilot IMO.

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7 hours ago, mccdeuce said:

Its more than just being able to fly on a cloudy day.  For most IFR rated pilots, we will tell you its a learning course in being a safer pilot.  Doesn't mean that not having IFR you aren't safe, but you pick up skills sets that will help you in all of your flying.  To include VFR in VMC.  

You learn a different set of skills.   Just like when you learned T/W or aero.  Neither of which is really a Mooney skill set - but I bet you learned some precision landings in the T/W and that will carry over to the Mooney.  Aero - learned how to make the aircraft do exactly what you wanted to do.  IFR - its the same, you will learn precision flying.  MDA of 720 ft means 720 ft. 

At the end of the day you can fly VFR all you want.  You can even fly IFR in VMC, in my Mooney I currently restrict myself to at least 3000/5 which is very conservative.

I also know that when the weather is not as forecast I am going to be ok.  For me - thats worth 10k.

+1

(What was the ceiling/visibility coming into @ KMRN Sunday?) 

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I live in Colorado. Grumpy VFR pilots told me I'd never use my rating as the clouds here tend to have 3 shitty things in them: ice, thunderstorms, and mountains. I have filed  IFR every flight since I got my rating and it's been a tremendous experience. From the more precise piloting to the enhanced/improved communications to the much higher level understanding of all aspects of flight (wx to performance, etc) it has made me a better, safer pilot. It's worth it. If you have a BFR coming up, replace that with your IR training...and you don't NEED to spend $10K to add a VOR. OR a glideslope. Do it. 

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I'll play devil's advocate here and offer that if you don't succumb to the pressures to fly when conditions aren't appropriate, and your schedule/job allows you the flexibility to take a relaxed pace then there's nothing wrong with forgoing the IR. In fact you could fly 50,000-60,000 miles (fuel cost) in my plane for what you'd spend in training. You could see much of this great country and still learn a lot about weather while doing so, just don't get in a hurry.

With that being said getting my IR was one of the most rewarding things I've ever done and it's made me a better and safer pilot. I don't have the patience or time to sit on the ground waiting out marginal (VFR) weather and no longer do I find myself flying VFR over-the-top or 2,000 agl under-the-bottom.

Best of luck with your decision.


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57 minutes ago, Brian Scranton said:

I live in Colorado. Grumpy VFR pilots told me I'd never use my rating as the clouds here tend to have 3 shitty things in them: ice, thunderstorms, and mountains. I have filed  IFR every flight since I got my rating and it's been a tremendous experience. From the more precise piloting to the enhanced/improved communications to the much higher level understanding of all aspects of flight (wx to performance, etc) it has made me a better, safer pilot. It's worth it. If you have a BFR coming up, replace that with your IR training...and you don't NEED to spend $10K to add a VOR. OR a glideslope. Do it. 

...and of course, there are those 2-3 weeks in late May, early June where you can find a few days with  clouds you can fly in. 

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Dispatch rate. Yes, you have additional time and schedule yourself well, but at some point, there comes a time when the weather is just barely marginal. Like many, I work hard to avoid hard IFR flights and have gotten in the air only to find something making me want to get back on the ground. Last night I spoke with a Columbia 400 pilot whose plane shed a prop de-ice boot in flight above a solid layer of clouds. He declared an emergency and made an ILS landing just above minimums.

Many things we have or do in life are a type of insurance. For me, my IR was one I allowed myself to do in order to improve my ability to read weather, give myself an out in the event I need to get down in somewhat of a hurry and to launch when the only thing between me and blue sky was a layer of clouds 1,000' off the ground.

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I rarely if ever fly "hard IFR" but there are lots of times that there is a low layer and I'm able to file, punch through and have an easy flight. Meanwhile, quite a few other pilot friends are sitting on the ground complaining about the weather.  The Mooney is such a capable IFR machine, its a shame not to be able to use the capability.

Having the Instrument Rating doesn't mean you fly in dangerous conditions. It means you can fly in very easy and safe conditions that are "illegal" for VFR only pilots to fly in.

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IFR is a must for me in a capable airplane... looking back there would have been too many trips delayed or cancelled without it. Highly recommend simply based on the utility of the rating. You will learn a lot of new things as well. I do have a family member who has flown for years and accumulated 3500 hours in 210's and never had IR so clearly it can be done with out the rating but for me, I use the rating far too often to not recommend it, especially when flying longer trips across multiple states. 

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I echo what most have said here. Just like Paul said, I use my IR for dispatch reliability and stay away from the real heavy stuff. It's also important to me to know where the VFR is along my route, just in case. And like midlifeflyer said, it makes getting into and around some Class Bravo a whole lot easier.

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21 minutes ago, Zwaustin said:

Plus, you can't cloud surf properly without an IR!!

IMG_0334.MOV

A typical thin layer here in Texas that keeps all the kids on the ground, even though it's truly safe and easy flying weather. Just not "legal" unless you have the IA on your cert.

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1 hour ago, gsxrpilot said:

I rarely if ever fly "hard IFR" but there are lots of times that there is a low layer and I'm able to file, punch through and have an easy flight. Meanwhile, quite a few other pilot friends are sitting on the ground complaining about the weather.  The Mooney is such a capable IFR machine, its a shame not to be able to use the capability.

Having the Instrument Rating doesn't mean you fly in dangerous conditions. It means you can fly in very easy and safe conditions that are "illegal" for VFR only pilots to fly in.

+1. I fly the same way.  I almost always file IFR, but I get my "actual" time in drips and drabs, mostly ascending and descending through a layer of some kind.  There are many advantages.  When you fly a long trip, and I fly quite a few, the destination weather when you arrive is rarely what was forecast and there almost always will be some kind of weather enroute.  You can avoid much of it by flying low, but that is generally pretty uncomfortable.  Getting above the layer invariably means smooth air.  In the summer around here (upper midwest) we get quite alot of "popcorn cumulus" days where the bottoms might be 4 or 5 thousand and the tops are 8-12k, sometimes higher.  The air is quite alot smoother above the tops, glassy actually, and I can ascend and descend as needed, I don't need to look for that elusive hole or worry that I will be trapped on top.  You need to be able to deal with that unforecast fog that rolled in or the remnants of storms that did not quite clear out at a destination 800 nm and 4 hours away, when things aren't quite what you expected.  

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Wildhorseracing:

I have been flying professionally for over 40 years, learning to fly in the Army in helicopters in 1975.  I've spent several years as an instrument instructor and more recently as a FAR 135 check airman.

In my opinion, your odds of successfully meeting the requirements for an instrument rating are poor UNLESS you are 100% commited to the task.  Any doubt or question in your mind as to the necessity of an instrument rating is like poison to completion.  

The instrument rating is the most difficult, most demanding rating you can get, even harder than an ATP in my opinion, because it introduces an entirely different way of thinking and flying.  You must re-learn to fly, not by what you see out the window, or an instinctive feel, but instead only by what you see on your instruments.  I guarantee you will get a good case of vertigo sometime during your training, you will have to force yourself to NOT trust your senses.

The rules, regulations, and procedures are all familiar but still very different than what you are now used to.  Furthermore, while "close enough" may work fine flying VFR, instrument flight requires a high degree of precision and constant concentration.  If you are not "in with both feet" you will not finish, it's not a task to be taken lightly.

There are a very high number of folks that attempt the rating but never finish due to the intensity of the task.  Usually folks drop out and never return.  But some folks do return to finish training, and usually after they have scared the crap out of themselves and their passengers.  They are the lucky ones, some folks scare themselves and don't survive the inadvertant IFR encounter.

My brother in law is a VFR pilot and has been for many years.  It takes a special person with patience and incredible self control to fly VFR, wait for VFR conditions and never be tempted to push things a bit with the weather.  If you are that person then perhaps you don't need an instrument rating after all.  But if you are like many of us, seeking more utility from their craft, an instrument rating is the key to making it more useful. 

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All of these reasons are great, and so far almost everything, except for cloud surfing, I have done as a VFR pilot w/flight following.

My Mooney has a VOR/NAV radio w/o glideslope.  Talking with my CFI and the local A&P they both suggested I upgrade to an ADS-B GPS while I am at it - hence the $8-10k figure.  I understand I can get the IFR with just a VOR/NAV but my plane would be limited as to which airports I can land at.  I am based just outside a Class B and flown "over the top" via VFR flight following a few times with no major issues (although I won't be able to do it after 2020 until I get ADS-B).

My business is such that I only work one weekend a month, so when I do travel by Mooney I usually have a few weeks to get back home.  I have also purchased refundable/changeable airline tickets before when time was critical as an insurance policy should the weather look dicey.

An IFR rating is more of a luxury for me, and for $14k I can fly on a lot of commercial flights with a cold adult beverage and let the pros get me there... B)

Keep'em coming though, I am truly trying to convince myself it's worth it.

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1) Losing JFK Jr. is a very graphic way of looking at it. A VFR pilot in challenging VMC conditions.  Not low clouds, not illegal, just not well executed... the IR builds the skills that will keep JFK jr. 's challenge from being shared.  Build trust in your instruments.  They fail at a lesser rate than the human judgement. Learn the plan B for Instrument failure in your plane.  There is a useable plan B, learn to use it.

2) financially the payback from lower insurance costs is real.

3) the ability to fly out for a whole weekend and be able to get home to work is real.

4) scoring a 98% on your IR test allows your family to fly with you comfortably when you are not a pro pilot.

5) the value or usability depends a lot on where you live.  Nothing like being stuck or worse, scud running.

6) you can honestly tell your family you are doing it for them.

7) The IR has the power to keep you from being a dead VFR pilot that ran into IMC.

8) The IR has the power to elevate your mistakes to flying in imbedded thunderstorms and icing.

9) If you like cognitive challenges, the IR is like taking a college level science class.  The text book is gigantic, the memory of details is tremendous, applying it to flight is exhilarating.  Some people come with Instrument reading and scanning skills from their work or other hobbies, already.  

10) The East coast has had low clouds for the last three days. An IFR GPS would make this an easy flight.

11) Much of the IR training is done or can be done without an airplane.  There is an assumption that you know how to fly your plane already.  The IR training is very much procedural training that in the end gets applied to your plane.

12) You won't regret spending the money, unless something else comes up that keeps you from flying... when that happens, you have more important things to attend to. :)

PP-IR ideas, shared. Not a CFI...

Best regards,

-a-

 

Edited by carusoam
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I agree with all of the comments above. 

Regarding your costs, they are probably low. The equipment upgrade to your plane will cost more unless you buy used equipment. All those training approaches burn a lot of fuel. It was 30+ gallons for each 3 hour training flight in my J. That plus my instructor fee, training materials, examiner fee, and it was probably $6,500 for the rating. And it was worth every penny. 

But there is the thing, You are only working 1 weekend a month. You could work more, make more, and then have more to spend on aviation. You also have plenty of time to work on your training. 

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Most of the best days to fly are IFR. Get above the clouds in GA territory and your all by yourself in blue bird sky's. If time is a luxury for you then I'm sure you could continue indefinitely with out your IFR rating. In regards to you comment about infrequent IFR flyers, part of the fun is having a safety pilot and staying proficient. Similar to your tail wheel endorsement. I use my plane to commute to one of my offices a couple times a week. Here in San Diego we have the marine layer to content with so for me the rating is essential. A couple of weeks ago I went to Las Vegas for CES one night and the flight was in solid IMC for a hour of the flight it was fun! Could I have waited for a break in weather and got in? Probably but look at the crash stats on VFR pilots entering IMC. Sounds like you could possibly pay for it through your business as well.

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