Instrument Rating Course in the UK: 8 BIG mistakes to avoid

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I did my multi-engine instrument rating (MEIR) course in the UK and hands down the period I most struggled with during flight training. There were many issues during my course, and I wanted to share some of the mistakes I made to make your instrument rating course easier!

Mistake #1: Don’t rush into choosing your flying school for your instrument rating

I was juggling a full-time job whilst trying to complete my MEIR. Once I had my 70hrs PIC from hour building and a night rating, I phoned around, and only two schools in the northwest of the UK offered instrument rating instruction during the weekend.

I worked Monday to Friday – so it had to be the weekend. Without asking too many questions, I picked the closest flying school to me at Leeds Bradford Airport – still a solid 2-hour drive from home.

This flying school is no longer in business, but the evening before I started my Multi-Engine Piston (MEP rating) as part of my IR, the flying school phoned to say my lessons for the next day had been cancelled.

To make the most of my time, I had paid for hotel accommodation in Leeds and had booked a few days off work. Schedule instability at the flying school was terrible, and had I done a bit more research by asking other students from the school about their experiences etc.; I would have known about the issues.

Other excellent schools like Central Flight Training, which I did not even consider, would perhaps have been a much better choice for my IR.

Mistake #2: It is a dangerous game paying for your Multi-Engine Instrument Rating on a pay as you go basis. Try and agree on a price upfront.

When I commenced my MEIR, I already had an Instrument Rating (Restricted) UK rating, so was progressing under the competency-based instrument rating route – I’ll do a separate blog post on that. I paid for my IR on a pay as you go basis.

Midway during the IR though, the flying school started increasing its prices. Once I was flying the DA-42 twin, each instrument approach was being charged at a whopping £60 a go!

The hourly charge for the aircraft was approx £500per hour having started at around £450. These problems are difficult to correct once you are on an IR course as you are effectively committed to the school, and you as a student don’t have many options.

In comparison, my CPL training cost course fee (Westair in Blackpool) was agreed on upfront for a fixed price – provided I did not exceed the course hours. I then paid for the course in 3 instalments tied to the hours completed on the course.

This is the type of arrangement you want to strive for. It means your costs as a student are controlled, the flying school cash flow is neutral and you are not paying everything upfront. For those wondering, my CPL course cost in the UK was around £7.5k all in and I found Westair to be fantastic.

Mistake #3: Know your checklist memory items and drills thoroughly beforehand

I never repeated this mistake since after, but I had not entirely committed all my checks to memory during my MEP course, which meant that I had to have an extra hour in the aircraft to polish off my engine failure after take-off drills.

Hiring a twin is extremely expensive, so you can help yourself by spending a few hours at home on the couch or on your home G1000 flight sim going through your drills. I could have avoided adding £600 to my MEP rating cost had I committed my checks to memory!!

Mistake #4: Try not to fly with too many different instructors

I was extremely fortunate during my IR in that I had one excellent instructor for all but 2 hours of my MEIR course. The consistency this provided helped me achieve a first series comfortable pass with no problems.

My instructor had very high standards and went through the instrument rating syllabus thoroughly to ensure there were no gaps or weak areas in my instrument flying. In some cases, he went beyond the ‘standard IR test’ scope to ensure that my flying was as well rounded as possible, and I would have sufficient resilience when a situation goes off-plan.

I have seen students suffer because they fly with too many different instructors, which affects their progress. Each flying instructor has his or her own style, and there is a certain amount of ‘getting to know each other’, that needs to happen naturally.

Mistake #5: Make sure you get enough rest

Multi-Engine Instrument Rating costs in the UK are high. I estimate my MEIR all-in cost around £22k! You must be well rested for each lesson as the flying can be quite intense, and you will lose the learning value if you are tired.

During my IR (and all my modular flight training), I worked extremely hard juggling my day engineering job and my flight training. Looking back now, I may have been better off doing a bit less and slowing down a touch!

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Mistake #6: You do not want to do your Multi-Engine Instrument Rating slowly!

I know this conflicts with mistake number 5 :), but I found that as I was getting close to my MEIR test, I needed to be flying every 3 to 4 days or my standards would quickly start falling.

For those of you considering completing your IR on a part-time basis, you can probably get away with flying on the weekends alone for the first part (Basic Instrument Flight Module). Still, as you get closer to your test, your flying frequency will need to increase.

The standard of precision required during your IR is very high (but entirely attainable) if flying regularly.

Mistake #7: Do not rush and take your Instrument Rating test too early

There is a balance to be struck between taking your test too early (partial pass, or worse failing) vs burning cash unnecessarily if you are ready for your MEIR test. Jobs for low hour pilots are scarce even when the industry is booming.

During your training, you want to get through with first time passes at all stages of your training if you can. Not only that, the cost of failing your IR test will easily cost you £2k to redo your test in CAA and aircraft hire fees.

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It is better to take an extra hour or two if you need and be confident going into your test.

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Mistake #8: Upgrading an Instrument Rating (Restricted) UK rating to an MEIR via the competency based route is not always cheaper or quicker

The success of the competency-based route to MEIR depends on how much IFR/ IMC experience you have. I had an IR(R) that I mainly used as a baby ‘single engine instrument rating’ during my hour building.

I had roughly 20hrs total IMC before my MEIR course, and in total, I did 52hours during my MEIR vs the standard course footprint of 55hours. Whilst I did ‘save’ 3hours, the saving was not that significant.

For a relatively low IMC experience level pilot, you may find yourself better off just following the MEIR’s standard course footprint. With the CBIR, the instructor has to ‘find your gaps’, and the structure is not as solid.

Issues arise if gaps are found late on during your MEIR course and can be expensive to fix as the twin aircraft’s hourly rate is so high.

I would love to hear about your experience during your instrument rating, or if you have any questions, please leave a comment in the section below.

kcthepilot da-42

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