5 reasons why an IR(R) Rating will make you a better pilot

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I’m flat out hour building every weekend day I can and suddenly weekend of 16th December 2017 – the weather is sh*t! In this blog post, I’ll share how my irrational impatience led to me getting an IMC rating/ IR(R) rating (by mistake as the weather was rubbish and there was nothing else to do) and how ultimately the IR R rating improved my flying and will most certainly improve yours.

At that point, I was spending every hour awake, either studying for ATPL exams, at work in my engineering role, eating, or flying. If I was not doing one of those activities, I was wasting time. I had no capacity for anything else.

My girlfriend Ruth had resigned to entertaining herself with her friends. I had a few days booked off work where I was hoping to smash a few more hours?

I was in a total rush and utterly impatient to get done. The reason for my hurrying around was the airline industry was booming with recruitment activity. Cadets were getting jobs the very same afternoon they finished!

Ryanair had announced that the 30k Euro type rating fee (massive barrier for most) had been scrapped and replaced with £5k bond upfront that reduced over five years.

Even more compelling, every new joiner was being given a contract from day 1, and word on the street was people were getting whichever base they choose. Easyjet was recruiting people on CPL MEIR courses even though BEFORE they had a CPL.

Recruitment was booming and I did not want to miss out. The concept then of sitting on the ground in Blackpool doing nothing didn’t work for me.

Reason #1: The IR(R) rating can provide you with a shortcut towards a MEIR (via the competency-based instrument rating route) but not always!

So I’m laying in bed, Saturday morning 16th December 2017. The weather is crap. Ordinarily, I would be well on my way towards some cake (and tea) at some distant airfield by now. What can I do to make use of the days off that I have?

The weather is perfect IMC training weather. I start researching on PPrune the possibility of doing an IMC rating. Is it a waste of money? Will I kill myself flying in IMC? I would rather be alive TBH! I get to the bottom of it, and it turns out that if I do an IMC rating, I am then eligible for the competency-based instrument rating.

The actual competency-based instrument rating prerequisite (lifted from CAA website) and benefit of IMC rating towards your CB-IR are:

Pilots who have completed instrument flight instruction provided by an IRI(A) or an FI(A) holding the privilege to provide training for the IR :

A maximum of 35 hours can be credited towards this 45-hour course.

Up to 10 hours may be instrument ground time in an FNPT I, or up to 30 hours in an FFS or FNPT II. A maximum of 5 hours of FNPT II or FFS instrument ground time may be conducted in an FNPT I.

Basically, by completing the IMC rating with at IRI, you get credit towards a CB IR when completing an instrument rating in the UK. This was a big tick for me.

BIG WARNING: ALTHOUGH TECHNICALLY YOU CAN OFFSET SOME OF THE IMC experience against your CBIR, do not expect to waltz into your CBIR in the minimum hours.

I have said many times before that the competency-based instrument rating relies on your having ‘competence’. If you have little experience in IMC (I had 20hrs total including my IMC rating, which was low), you may be better off doing the standard MEIR course.

That said, you still get the benefit of a reduced 45hr course instead of 55hr course as you won’t be required to complete the basic instrument flight module (BIFM). All in, my CBIR was 53 hours to get to ME CB IR skills test.

Yes, I did save 2 hours against the standard MEIR course profile, but was it cheaper than the classic ME/IR course cost? No, it was not, particularly when you include the £3k IMC rating course fee.

So aside from a possible shortcut that the IR(R) rating can give you towards a full MEIR, what else?

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Reason #2: Having an IMC rating if hour building can accelerate hour building (particularly if flying in the UK winter)

DISCLAIMER: I AM NOT ENCOURAGING ANY UNSAFE OR ILLEGAL BEHAVIOUR. REMAIN SAFE AND LEGAL AT ALL TIMES

For me, having the IMC rating meant that on marginal weather days, I could still go flying and get something out of the day hour building rather than being stuck on the ground. With an IMC rating, you are technically allowed to fly precision approaches (where available) down to a minima of 200ft!

What used to bug me is if I have an engine failure with my single engine instrument rating in the UK what would I do? For this reason, I only went flying in IMC if the cloud base was sufficient to allow me the time and space to carry out a PFL.

I would ideally be looking for 800ft or greater. I just did not like blasting off into the mirk when the cloud was on the deck.

Reason 3: An IMC rating will give you a newfound respect for the weather.

Surprisingly for me anyway, I found myself being more conservative after my IMC rating than before. Although I had an IR (R) rating, I always wanted to be satisfied I could get myself out of trouble on the basis of a major nav aid failing (e.g. ILS not available, so NDB/ VOR approach) and the artificial horizon failing too.

I have had 3 cases when the artificial horizon topped during my hour building and would not re-set. At the time, I was in VFR but still, those incidents were a good warning. With the IMC rating, I think you respect how tricky IMC flying can be and how quickly you can lose situational awareness and get into an upset.

Reason 4: To pass your IMC rating you have to be able to fly a heading, altitude and speed. 

Do not underestimate how important doing these 3 things accurately is. If you can master accurate flying with your Private Pilot Licence with an IMC rating and have aspirations for a CPL/MEIR, this discipline will help you tremendously. Don’t forget to keep looking outside though when flying VFR.

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Reason 5: Single pilot IFR is high workload, and if practised regularly, you can significantly improve your capacity

Whatever your ambitions flying wise, coping with single-pilot IFR is probably the most challenging flying you will ever do. Developing the additional capacity for single-pilot IFR will greatly improve the overall safety of your day to day flying and if want to get a CPL/MEIR then the learning curve is less steep. Your radio communication will be sharper too.

The important thing for all single-pilot IFR flying on your IMC rating is to respect the conditions and stay well practised in good conditions, so when conditions deteriorate, you are well placed to execute as necessary.  

For those interested, I did my IR(R) Rating and hour building at ANT Blackpool, CPL at Westair Blackpool & CBIR at PTT in Leeds.

Do you have any questions on the IR R Rating? Please leave a comment in the section below – I would love to hear from you!

PA28 Furness Peninsula

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