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Question How to get instrument current again?

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Forums Chief Pilot
Staff member
Oct 31, 1996
Type aircraft owned
Carbon Cub FX-3
Base airport
I loved flying IFR/IMC back in the days of A-10's, it was rewarding to do it right and it was natural in my younger years. After a 20 year break I dumped all the knowledge and now I'm back into flying in a glass panel cockpit with a Garmin G3X, GNC 355 and GFC 500 autopilot. I got the IFR setup to keep me challenged and learning which is what I enjoy and someday I need to learn the latest in instrument flying and GPS approaches which didn't exist back in my dinosaur years.

I dabbled with RNAV approaches and learned some basics of my panel but I'm sure those proficient with this can really make the panel (glass) work for you. One of these days I need to figure out a path to get recurrent, retrained, and enjoy the concepts and challenges of instrument flying.

My local FBO (KFCI) only has Cirrus aircraft so I'm guessing I'm going to have to go that route to pay the high costs of a Cirrus checkout and also instrument training unless I find another place to go. I'm also interested in saving some time and money with online content where I can study, learn all I can, then go do the flying with more study done prior to paying the big training bills.

Any recommendations on getting recurrent in instrument flying for someone that's been out of it for so long?
It's a fairly common issue. Do some self-study, as you mentioned, and get with a qualified instructor. It likely not the daunting challenge you imagine. Make it an enjoyable process, and keep learning.
I do some rusty pilots training. After a big break, there are three distinct issues, particularly for instrument pilots.
  • Recapturing basic instrument flying skills. That's not only your scan, but your ability to divide and prioritize attention to cockpit tasks and (what I think is really the biggest one) anticipation, a/k/a staying ahead of the airplane. I see that last one degrade even in pilots who fly regularly but have become too autopilot dependent. A lot of this can be done in ground trainers, even the simplest BATD.
  • Rules, regulations, and procedures.. The FAA's movement to an RNAV/PBN world has changed a lot of this stuff. Do something targeted, even if self-study. You might even consider a good ground school course to get that part up to speed. IFR-oriented periodicals can also help.
  • Modern avionics. I spend most of my time with owners on this. It might be a new panel suite or just a pilot who never really got past the basics of what their GPS can do. I typically recommend one of the free courses Garmin and Avidyne publish for their equipment as a starting point. And again, while the avionics in them do not have full fidelity, a training device can help with basic buttonology.
Biting the bullet with Cirrus may actually be an advantage. Cirrus has developed standardized training and standard operating procedures. They are really very good. If you search for Cirrus FOM, you will find links to their operations manuals. There are some older ones available free. The most current are paid apps. If you are going to fly Cirrus regularly, they are worth the investment.

Have fun!
I agree with Mark on the use of SIM/FTD's to help get comfortable flying IFR again, and save a few bucks doing so. If the school will let you, go up in actual in the cirrus with the instructor and practice in the soup. Practice in actual is priceless and builds confidence as well.