Just Do It
Often, once we obtain that magic piece of paper saying Private Pilot, for which we struggled so hard, we presume were good to go. We fill our Skyhawks with people, packages and petrol, and then blast off to the beach, to Grandmas house or to a business meeting. Weather sometimes keeps us on the ground, but as we gain experience and confidence, we learn more about what kinds of weather we and our airplane can handle. Soon, depending in part on how many hours we accumulate and how regularly we fly, we settle into a comfort zone where we can pretty much come and go as we please without too much drama.
Of course, geography plays a major role in the way we deal with weather. Pilots living in Florida and flogging a piston-powered single rarely have to worry about airframe icing or widespread low IFR. But if youre based in Seattle, these phenomena can be a regular feature of your flying.
Eventually, we find some trips simply cant be flown without penetrating a cloud for just a few seconds or mucking around in the kind of visibility that has ducks walking. And thats when we realize we have a choice: We can continue to fly ourselves and our passengers all over the place while hoping only our schedules get adjusted for weather. Or, we can get the Instrument rating and learn how to use it.
Sometimes, theres a third option: ignoring the few seconds in a cloud-or the two miles of visibility in haze that youre calling three miles and punching through. Even if we cant really see the horizon for a short while, we figure we have enough training to understand what the flight instruments are telling us and, besides, whats a few Gs or a wandering heading among friends? We got to the destination, didnt we? Yeah … but.
If youre a VFR-only pilot who uses an airplane for transportation, youve likely been tempted to cheat a little bit by blasting through a cloud on a summer day, or washing off the plane by drilling through some heavy, visibility-reducing rain to get home. But this third option isnt really an option-its a trap.
Eventually, youll find yourself shrugging off the 1200-foot overcast in three miles of visibility and motoring on your merry way. And thats when youve bought into the siren singing your praises as a pilot. Thats also when you become a menace to your insurance company, to your passengers and yourself. And me.
If any of this reminds you of a recent flight, if you constantly tell yourself I can handle this, if youve had any weather-related close calls or if you really want to use your airplane regularly and safely, get the Instrument rating. Get the written out of the way and go do it. Borrow the money if you have to. Take a vacation to a sunny clime with a flight school and knock it out in a couple of weeks. Grab a roving CFII for a week or so and do it on your own turf. Enroll in one of the quickie courses and get it over with.
Once you get that new piece of paper, youll have the ability to better manage your schedule and can approach trip planning with greater confidence. And youll be safer.
Just do it.