Wings Alliance cadet Tirth Patel shares his experience of obtaining the IR(R)
When I was first toying with the idea to start the IR(R) course or not, I was in two minds. On the one hand, it was an extra course to take on whilst simultaneously studying for the ATPLs, and another £3,000 on top of the other training costs involved with commercial pilot training.
On the other hand, however, I should hopefully be able to get 10 hours credited towards my full IR which will almost offset the cost of doing the IR(R) and it was a great opportunity to give me a head start for the CPL ME/IR too; it will give me a chance to develop my flying skills further, and also as a way to build more hours in weather that I couldn’t fly in with just a PPL.
Ultimately, I decided to fly right in to the cloud – literally, and start the course.
The IR(R) started where most courses start – on the ground, in a classroom, learning about the theory. Having finished module one and two of the ATPLs though, I found the lessons a lot more engaging. You go through the ins and outs of the various radio navigation instruments such as the NDB, VOR and ILS.
Human performance factors are also considered such as somatogravic illusions, all of which gives you a chance to test what you know from the ATPL theory! The initial few flying lessons start off by wearing foggles – goggles with the top portion covered up so you can’t see outside – which keeps your focus on the instruments.
The lessons work on flying straight and level, climbing, descending and turning using instruments only, and also doing the same simulating certain instrument failures.
When flying into real cloud for the first time though, it is an absolutely surreal experience. Your brain gets bombarded with countless sensations, illusions and feelings. You seem like you’re flying level, then you glance at your attitude indicator as part of your instrument scan and you’re in a 30° bank to the left! No foggles can simulate that! The updraughts, the downdraughts, the changing wind, all add up to create a very confusing picture – and you go back to what you have been taught – trust the instruments! This is where I really started to see the benefits of doing the IR(R).
In the early lessons, just basic instrument flying seemed like such a high workload situation, let alone navigating and talking on the radio. With training and practice though, you learn to manage the workload effectively: No longer does the aircraft start turning or changing height when you are trying to work out your position. No longer do you drift from the correct ILS localiser and glideslope centreline whilst writing down and reading back your missed approach instructions.
There are other aspects too that become more important when flying in IMC such as making sure you have correctly identified the radio navigation aid that you have tuned. With no visual reference to ground features, this is crucial to ensure you are referencing the right station. I certainly know more Morse code now than I ever did before!
I feel now that I have completed the IR(R) course, not only have I got an additional rating that will allow me to fly in IMC, but even in VMC, I am a better pilot than I was before. Your understanding of the basic instruments in enhanced.
The course has given me better situational awareness, which again is vital when you have limited or no visual cues. I have a better appreciation for clouds and weather and some of the associated dangers such as icing considerations, which you wouldn’t ordinarily consider on a sunny winters day. I can now confidently carry out NDB approaches, holds, make timing and heading corrections as necessary, and fly an ILS accurately.
Alongside this, the training has enabled me to read, interpret and fly approach plates too. When I go on to do my CPL ME/IR, I will be able to spend the time more effectively, although I appreciate the course will be more involved, the IR(R) has given me a good foundation in the skills and knowledge required.
For anyone who is considering doing the IR(R), I would highly recommend that they go for it. And for anyone who hasn’t thought about it before, I would urge them to. The benefits are priceless.