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“Quite satisfying.”  “Sweaty minutes.” “Won’t be forgotten any time soon.” These are snippets from responses our social-network followers offered when we asked instrument-rated pilots to recall their first flight as pilot in command in instrument meteorological conditions after earning the rating.

In every crowd there’s one who goes off in a different direction. We’ll save David Young’s comment for the end.

For Paul Emaus, that first flight, a long cross-country with real weather, seemed daunting until a veteran helped settle his nerves. “I must have looked frantic in the FBO planning my for my first [cross-country] IFR,” he posted on Facebook. He was five hours from home, and there was a cloud deck extending from 1,000 feet agl up to 5,000 feet "with thunderstorms moving into the area within the hour." An “older veteran,” a retired 25-year search-and-rescue commander from Traverse City, Michigan, introduced himself and offered reassurance. Emaus flew three hours in the soup and transitioned through Minneapolis/St. Paul before "a sunset refuel landing in Oshkosh." And, two hours later, "we were home in Michigan. You never know who you might run into at a small town FBO, thanks Joe.”

Richard Lim’s recollection was an approach into Torrance, California. “I just kept telling myself, ‘trust your instruments, don't look outside’—but of course you can't help but take a peek and marvel at the fact you are flying completely without reference to the outside world. Quite satisfying.” He broke out at 1,500 feet agl and gave ATC a cloud-deck report. Nice work.

Eddie Rose’s first PIC IFR flight with no instructor aboard “was a 30 min flight for a family event, got to my destination and it was below minimums turned around and went home without shooting a approach.” He added, “I had a great instructor who flew quite a bit of actual IFR while training, so yes I felt prepared.”

John Lagerling recalled a flight with a passenger in IMC to a nontowered field when, right before the approach, he heard, “'hold at xyz as published.’ There was no published hold on his chart or plate for the fix. What I didn’t realize is that there was a published hold on a separate approach plate that ATC was referring to. Sweaty minutes but it worked out.” An uneventful approach to minimums followed, and “I probably learned more about flying in the system on that flight than 5 prior lessons/checkride.”

“Yes, it is the best rating ever,” posted Dean Jones. “I think that your instrument rating should be included a whole lot more in your Private Pilot training, as well,” he added, urging, “Get your instrument rating!!!

Okay, David Young, you’re up: “My first approach to minimums won’t be forgotten any time soon! My first IFR flight after (being) rated was in severe clear skies!!”

Thanks to all the instrument pilots who responded.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Instrument Rating, Pilots, IFR

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