Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Why I Almost Gave Up My IFR Rating- An How A Flight Simulator With Real ATC Saved Me

I’ll try to make a long story short. I struggled to pass my IFR checkride...failed it twice before finally passing it the third time. It didn’t come easily to me, obviously. The extra tests (and related training) took me far, far over my budget and when all was said and done I had an IFR ticket and no money left to go use my “license to learn”.

It was somewhat depressing. I flew a few VFR flights over the next several months but did not fly IFR. Partly I couldn’t afford to rent a plane and an instructor, and partly I just didn’t feel like it.

Then I read about PilotEdge (www.pilotedge.net) and how they have Air Traffic Controllers in real time, set up like real life. You have to change frequencies as you travel through the system. They offer you shortcuts just the way it’s done in real life. There’s other airplanes on the frequency with you and sometimes you have to wait for a break to get in, just like in real life. It sounded like a way for me to practice and get better without spending a wad of money.

I had played around with Microsoft Flight Simulator X before and it was somewhat helpful for tracking VORs, setting up an approach, and all the planning stuff that goes into an IFR flight. The Beta testing of PilotEdge was up and running, but so far only supporting X-Plane’s flight simulator. At only $29 I figured it was worth trying out X-Plane. And it certainly was. I was able to get a Comanche set up nearly identical to my buddies airplane and then I got configured for PilotEdge.

The experiences I’ve had on PilotEdge have been far more profound than I expected. Each flight I’ve become more and more comfortable flying “in the system” and I’m a much better pilot because of it. The controllers are professional and treat you just like real life ATC.

I can practice as much as I want and I know that the next time I file IFR in real life, I’ll be far better prepared.