Hone your IFR skills

September 19, 2012

Flying IFR is a dynamic undertaking—and not just because of the weather. Satellite-based navigation is changing the routes IFR pilots can fly and the approaches available at the destination. All those new options and capabilities are changing the appearance and content of the charts IFR pilots rely on—not to mention the profusion of information increasingly available to assess the weather, both now and throughout your flight’s forecast period.

Instrument pilots know that the IFR seminars offered at AOPA Aviation Summit offer a matchless opportunity to become familiar with the impact emerging technology is having on IFR, or to get a quick and comprehensive refresher on a variety of IFR topics.

Make it a point to include the following seminars in your Summit schedule, and then look forward to planning your next instrument flight with enhanced knowledge and renewed confidence.

‘Real-World IFR’
Your performance on your instrument-rating checkride delighted your designated examiner, and you always try to stay as current and proficient as a busy schedule will allow. Still, there are weather conditions you would rather not tackle on your own, even though the ticket in your wallet attests to your qualifications to take them on. That sometimes leaves you with questions—especially what to do about it!

Take reassurance in knowing that you are not alone dealing with this challenge to your confidence. Many instrument-rated pilots facing a complicated IFR flight wrestle with the “I know I can, but should I?” question.

Fortunately, a seminar at AOPA Aviation Summit is specifically designed to help pilots put it all in perspective: The Air Safety Institute’s “Real-World IFR” safety seminar, conducted by AOPA Foundation President Bruce Landsberg on Oct. 11 from 10:30 to 11:45 a.m. in the Palm Springs Convention Center, Primrose B-D), will take you beyond the realm of basic instrument training and provide an opportunity to hear how professional pilots who fly day in and day out, in all kinds of weather, approach their work.

There’s nothing like hearing veterans of the instrument-flying environment talk about how to assess a proposed flight, make a go/no-go decision, or suggest things you can do to prevent periods of inactivity from undermining your confidence in your instrument flying skills.

‘Chart Smart’
If a picture's worth a thousand words, which preflight pictures are most valuable to you?

Some aeronautical and weather charts are so visually striking that the story they tell emerges at first glance. Radar images are one example. A surface analysis that shows a cold front marching across the landscape, rooted in a deep low-pressure system, is another, telling you instantly in broad terms what kind of weather is afoot.

A meticulous pilot follows up that initial impression with more research when a flight promises to be a “weather flight.” What are the best sources of the information for the complete picture you seek?

Join AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Tom Horne for the seminar “Chart Smart” as he covers the basics of selected weather charts—including surface analysis, constant-pressure, Rapid Update Cycle, and other sources of graphic weather data. There will be a look at satellite imagery—and even a peek at the mysterious Skew-T Log-P charts. Stop by the seminar and find out how knowing these sources of information can make your flying safer.

“Chart Smart” will be presented Oct. 11 from 10:30 to 11:45 a.m. at the convention center, Pasadena/Sierra/Ventura, and Oct. 13 from 10:30 to 11:45 a.m. at the convention center, Catalina/Madera.

‘Chart Challenges: Approaches’
Knowing what's on an instrument approach procedure chart is one thing; knowing how to apply it in the real world is something else. Will you make the right choices?

There’s a lot of information packed into that small space. An approach may have multiple minimum altitudes, depending on whether you fly it straight-in or as a circling maneuver. The navigation equipment available to you may determine how to identify a fix, what minimum to apply, or whether you can fly the approach at all. Also, no matter how well you prepare for a flight, sometimes a change of plans becomes necessary, requiring a quick reassessment of your options.

Can you manage the workload?

Stop by the “Chart Challenges” seminar on Oct. 11 from 3:15 to 4:30 p.m., or on Oct. 12 from 10:30 to 11:45 a.m. at the convention center, Primrose B-D. Expect some serious immersion in this dynamic subject—and be prepared for a highly interactive discussion!

GPS and WAAS-based approaches
Instrument approaches based on GPS and the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) are becoming the norm as more airports acquire satellite-navigation-enabled procedures allowing arrivals under instrument meteorological conditions. But not all instrument pilots have had the opportunity to learn about, or gain operating experience in the IFR environment of the future.

Get a needed head start by making it a point to attend the seminar “Practical Tips for Flying GPS- and WAAS-Based Approaches.” Insights for flying GPS and WAAS approaches will be provided by Max Trescott, the 2008 National CFI of the Year, during two presentations of the seminar on Oct. 11 from 1:30 to 2:45 p.m. at the convention center, Smoketree A-E; and Oct. 12 from 10:30 to 11:45 a.m. at the convention center, Pasadena/Sierra/Ventura.