|I kept this journal while enrolled in a 'total immersion' instrument flight training class in the spring of 1994. Only minor edits have been made to eliminate obsolete references.|
Various others have written their instrument training story. Now, its my turn. For a change of pace, though, I'm going to meander around in a cinema verite sort of style, describing the entire experience, not just the time in the plane and at ground school. If you find this boring, sorry. I apologize. Just click on [BACK], or type another url, or whatever.
Anyway, a bit about me. I'm 39 years old, and have flown for about 150 hours since I got my PPL a little over 3 years ago. When I got it, the instrument rating seemed a far off but important goal. After several years, it began to seem possible and I started asking people who did it what recommendations they had. The recurring theme was 'take some time off and do it in one long session'. That sounded fine to me and, as I'd been saving up for it for a while, it didn't much matter whether I spent the money over several months or all at once.
But where to do it? When I did my PPL, I pulled a young instructor whose flying and knowledge was fine but whose teaching skills could have been better. That's from my current perspective; back then I just though it was me who was obtuse. Later I found out that I was his first student, which somewhat put me off.
This time, I wanted to find someone who had done zillions of hours of flying and, just as importantly, of instrument training. In short, I was looking for someone to play Obi-Wan-Kenobi to my Luke Skywalker. A Jedi Master, who would pass on to me his knowledge of The Force, so I could become a Jedi Knight (ie, a safe, competent, instrument pilot).
The PIC ads appealed to me, and for a while, they were my choice. I also considered the local FBOs, but none of them answered my questions about syllabus (what will we be doing?) or simulator (how much of it will be done there) to my satisfaction.
One of the more vocal members of CompuServe's AVSIG forum suggested that I should be shopping for the instructor, not the FBO, and mentioned another AVSIG member as a candidate. I met with the fellow, who appeared to be a competent instructor, but he had some other obligations that prevented him from working with me. A fellow at work recommended his former CFII who used to work for American Flyers, but he was busy too, as was the fellow he recommended. That got me thinking about a 'Study with 10,000 hour commercial pilot in South Carolina' ad I'd seen, but just minutes before I signed with that school, I received an email from yet another AVSIG member responded to my posting with the name John Murray, in Massachusetts (I live in New York).
I spoke with John on the phone, and he sounded like exactly what I was looking for: a calm, collected, unflappable Jedi Master. I met with him and it turned out he trained in 'PIC-style', ie. intensive training with equally intensive use of a simulator. If he'd been a commercial pilot, he'd have been the sort who might announce on the PA one day 'Well, folks, two of our engines are out, the third is on fire, and the wings have fallen off, but don't worry, we'll have it fixed up real soon and have you at the gate soon enough for you to make your connections.' I gave John a deposit before I left.
Several weeks later (after a brief delay due to weather (a PIREP from New London reporting tornados!)) I arrived in Bedford, Mass, armed only with a Cherokee 140, a ton of luggage, a flight bag full of shiny new Jepp Charts (thanks to Darren DeLoach, of Deloach Software and Services), my logbook, a checkbook, and a smile. Our story begins...