how to fly IFR well

A License to Learn
The hard part of IFR flight after obtaining your rating is not the flying so much as surviving while you fill all the experience gaps not covered in your training. The last level of achievement will be in acquiring the confidence needed to fly IFR alone. Competent IFR pilots do not crash, often.

Flying Smart IFR
When first beginning IFR training the multiplicity of tasks so divides our attention that the putting together of the puzzle seems impossible. There are some ways not only to fly better but to fly smarter.

A good pilot will anticipate rather than react. Thinking ahead of the airplane is a necessity, not a choice.
Scan is an essential ingredient to good IFR piloting. A proficient scan can only be maintained by continual practice.
You can get away with some memorized checklists. Written checklists are the preferred method of experienced pilots.
Be exact in your actions. Know how much power, trim, rudder, it takes to do what. Organize the flow path of what you do.
Know where you are in the world around you. Nothing, but nothing, so disables the thought processes as being lost, confused or misplaced.
Learn enough of the codes so as to know the navaid identifier when you hear it.
Organize your flight materials. There is considerable difference between having something and knowing just where you have it.
Use all your ATC and cockpit resources. Every radio and navaid should be used effectively. Knowing you need assistance requires a companion factor of being able to ask for it.
Divide the things you do into priorities. Do the primary things in order. Secondary things must wait both their turn and the time of doing.
Standards are just averages. Fly to a higher level in maintaining altitude, heading and airspeed.
The pre-approach preparation of weather, getting plate essentials, setting radios and navaids is completed before reaching the initial approach fix.
If you are not doing something then there must be something you should be doing.
Getting behind is part of life and flying. Slowing down the airplane is the best way to catch up to it in the cockpit.
Beginning with aircraft control we find that flying the airplane must be removed as part of the equation.

Saving Money
The IFR rating doesn't have to be as expensive as most pilots make it. The ego of most mid-time pilots often and mistakenly lead them to believe that the major hurdles are to learn the applicable material needed to pass the written. The flying is a 40 hour understood requirement but no problem.

Though often not prone to boast, every pilot likes to think of himself as a good pilot. The pilot, however, is selective in his recollections of flying events and performance. The quality of a pilot is a conglomerate of many skills and thought processes. Any deficiency in one area permeates the whole. Jack Nicklaus said of golfing, "The game of golf is not how many good shots you hit, it's how few bad shots you hit. The same concept applies to instrument flying. Greatest weakness of IFR students is their inability to fly basic instruments.

Until you master efficient aircraft operation don't even think of beginning concentrated IFR instruction. That is unless you have in ingrained desire to escalate your instructional costs. The best way to become IFR efficient after getting your private license would be to get at least forty of your fifty required hours of cross country using IFR en route techniques while VFR. IFR radio procedures like most ATC procedures are 'canned'. Everything you say will be the same format except for place names, altitudes, aircraft numbers, and special instructions or requests.

The skill of flying has a foundation of planning for efficiency in every phase. Anticipation instead of reaction is the difference. The skilful pilot has a planned efficient preflight, a planned efficient departure, a planned efficient flight route, and a planned efficient arrival. Even the most minute aspect of the above operations should be both planned and efficient. The seeming effortless performance of a skilful pilot is due to planning and efficiency. There is a minimum of wasted or repetitive movement of body and controls. All actions are predicated to anticipate a minimum of subsequent action. How rapidly you improve in your instrument flying will be directly related to how quickly you learn from your mistakes.

How well you fly IFR is directly related to your initial flight training and the extent to which the instrument instructor has to rebuild habits and concepts. Extra vigilance and precision is required to fly IFR. The transition is not easy or without emotional pain. You will sacrifice much of the freedom and tolerances allowed in VFR flight.

Safety Pilot per FAR 91.109(b)

Safety pilot must be private with category and class ratings. If VFR safety pilot does not need IFR rating. If IFR PIC must be instrument rated, current, and legal.
If two equally qualified pilots should chose to trade hood time while the other acts as safety pilot, they both can log PIC time. One as sole manipulator of the controls and the other as required crew member.
Minimum qualifications for safety pilot is a private pilot appropriately rated in aircraft. Flight under simulated instrument conditions are logged as place and type of each instrument approach completed and name of the safety pilot.

Hood 'Actual'
You should have an "actual conditions" checklist. Every time you go under the hood you should go through the list to develop good IFR habits. It could/should include such items as pitot heat, vacuum backup, alternate air check and HI/Compass check

Safety Standards
No hard IFR without redundant vacuum and possible redundant gyros
2. Enough fuel to fly to VFR conditions.
3. Don't do a second approach after missed approach. Go somewhere better.
4. Don't let 'getting there' be part of the problem.
Don't fly where slow air masses meet low pressure systems.

Tape Recorder
When using tape recorder. or digital recorder  always give a time check at the beginning of each 45 minute tape run so that time of a given event can be determined. The FAA does it to you every time you contact ATC.

Logging Time

FAR Part 1 defines PIC as the one responsible for operation. You cannot be PIC on an IFR flight plan unless IFR rated even in VFR conditions.
You can log PIC time under FAR 61.51 (c)(2)(i) which is when the pilot is the sole manipulator of the controls of an aircraft for which the pilot is rated.
FAR 61.51 (C)(4) then defines instrument time as when the pilot operates an aircraft solely by reference to instruments. This second PIC time is time toward instrument flight experience requirement of FAR 61.65.
Instructional time cannot be logged as IFR instruction unless a CFI is aboard.  40 hours of instruction in IFR is required. 25 hours can be with a CFI and at least 15 must be with a CFII. If you can, get up to twenty-five hours of instruction from a CFI who will probably instruct for less than a CFII.

Low Approach
The practice of IFR low approaches to minimums does not violate the restrictions in FAR 91.119.

Cockpit Organization
Consider using the back of your lapboard to keep round numbers for range, climb per nautical mile speeds, landing and takeoff distances. Every checklist has a time where it should be completed. Planning ahead gets the list finished before that time. Emergency lists must include such automatics as convert airspeed to altitude, turn to selected field.

The POH tells you how to operate the aircraft but very little is said of the specifics of preparing for IFR flight. Every phase of IFR flight has a specific number of items that should be checked by the checklist. When you play with the 'big boys' you must fit into the game by knowing what to say, do, and avoid.

Basic IFR Flight Skills
To fly basic instruments the pilot must acquire sufficient experience in flying with a light "finger-tip" touch to see that it really works best. Doing so, will make aircraft control an exercise in relaxation. You must hold the controls with only your fingertips. This is the beginning step in good instrument flying.

To fly IFR you must be able to do quite a number of different simple things in correct sequence. Anticipation instead of reaction. The timing and order of these things must be reduced to their most simple denominators. Then, after all aspects of instrument flight are in place and ordered you must have sufficient intellectual/emotional capacity left to carry on a casual conversation AND cope with some unexpected event. This is what you can do while driving a car.

Do we lift off at Vso and climb at Vy? There are NO acceptable variations in airspeed. Speed is right or not right.
Have we preset the trim?
Do we know the direction and amount of trim change for several key configurations and power settings?
Do we know the power changes and sequence, as well?
Can you climb and level off at the same speeds with a minimum sequence of trim and power changes? Altitude is either right or not right. There are NO acceptable variations in altitude.
Can you go from a climb to level cruise, likewise?
From level cruise to approach speed?
From approach to 500 fpm descent? And back level?
From approach/landing configuration to climb?
Go through any of the above flight changes and note the time required. Now cut that time in half next time.
Once in a configuration, can we fly with one finger?
How well can you hold heading with rudder alone? How long?
How well can you track to a VOR like this?

For a given aircraft configuration, a known pitch attitude with a known power setting will result in a standard of performance. The configuration, pitch and power requirements MUST be pre-determined and known for the aircraft that we fly. Smoothness and precision is everything in IFR flying. Make flying the plane a part of your body. Think ahead...You must be able to anticipate any power changes required by control movements or pressures. Reaction instead of anticipation is indicative of a skill deficiency,

Basic instrument flight skills are those that a pilot can accomplish by reference to the aircraft instruments without outside reference. The four basic manoeuvres (climbs, descents, level, and turns) alone or in combination, can be accomplished at several airspeeds and configurations with exact ordered sequence of power, control and trim. Specifically, you must know the power settings required for level, climb, and descent for at least two or more airspeeds. You must know how to anticipate the control movements and pressures required for any power changes. You must have mastered the following transitions.

Having the Light Touch when IFR
There are times, when flying IFR that having confidence in yourself and the aircraft will allow you to release the yoke and do cockpit chores hands-off. You should be able to change radio frequencies, shift through papers and deal with distractions for up to five seconds. During this time you do not touch the controls except with your feet. You continue to scan the instruments and make necessary corrections with you feet.

Compass Turns required when HI Dies
A standard rate turn is at three degrees per second. By dividing the number of degrees requires in a turn you can determine the number of seconds required to make the turn. Less than six-degree changes in heading can (should) be made with just rudder. Another way is to roll in and right back our of a half-standard rate for a three degree turn and a full standard rate for six degree turns.  Use the vertical index of the Attitude Indicator for a level entry and level recovery from your turn.  You should practice these turns and others.

Standard rate turn rule of thumb.
-Drop final zero off of airspeed and add five. Use attitude indicator for initial bank and check turn coordinator for calibration by timing turns.

Steep Turns
Making a steep turn under the hood is made easier if you roll quickly into the turn and lock the nose attitude with your elbow. Some speed deterioration will occur by the 180-degree point so it is best that some power be added then. On a flight test you might discuss ahead of time whether the examiner will allow the use of trim.

Zero-Zero Takeoff Simulation
Stop momentarily on the runway centreline and set the heading indicator to the runway heading. Use right rudder as you apply power smoothly to maintain heading. Be sure to add additional rudder as you reach flying speed and raise the pitch attitude. The attitude indicator will show more than required pitch attitude than required on initial acceleration. Expect this.

Right Seat IFR
You can readjust yourself to the visual references and changed hand positions on the controls. You will learn how to fly cross panel in the pattern and doing flight manoeuvres. You will be able to use the same line of sight referenced for aligning yourself with the same references as you used from the left seat. This is followed by IFR tracking on approaches. You will be forced to break habits you never even knew you had acquired. Parallax will cause your use of compass and HI to vary a few degrees from what is read from the left seat.


Normal climb to level cruise
Level cruise to level approach speed
Level cruise to level holding speed
Level approach speed to holding speed
Level cruise to 1000 fpm descent
Level cruise to 500 fpm descent
Approach speed to 1000 fpm descent
Approach speed to 500 fpm descent
Level approach speed to landing approach
--Descending approach speed to landing approach.
--Turning approach speed to short approach landing

A Tight Grip does not allow the pilot to sense the aircraft. This pilot will be anxious to control everything and end up controlling nothing. This anxious pilot will be tense and reduce his ability to sense the aircraft. Having these problems are normal. Some fear, tension, and concern is a good way to help you make safe decisions. The IFR training program is designed to eliminate them in-so-far as they affect your actual flying.

Beginning IFR students usually fly with a "death-grip" on the yoke. They react with jerks and have a tendency to over control. A pilot who reacts to feel or sound before verifying his reaction with the flight instruments will have 'jerk' control problems. Every change in configuration, of altitude, or heading requires that the scan speed be increased. Failure to increase the scan speed will again create control problems. Work on anticipation instead of reaction.

Another nearly unrecognizable factor may be body position. You must adjust the seat so that you can see under the wing and over the panel properly. Your body must be firmly supported by the seat. Some VFR pilots will lean in their seats while turning, a no-no in IFR. Some pilots nod or tilt their heads while receiving radio transmissions, another no-no. These VFR habits create difficulties under IFR.

Flying so Flying is not Part of the IFR Problem
Beginning IFR training in before you have mastered the basics is a waste of time and money. In addition to maintaining headings and altitudes you want to know the situations where you will be using the Ts.


Learn the power settings and configuration for the performance required. There is a specific power setting, attitude, configuration and airspeed for climb, cruise, cruise descent, level approach, and precision descent. With these settings as constants you increase your ability to deal with problems.

As a student instrument pilot or as a retread, you must know where every power setting, trim change, and attitude is for a particular aircraft. You must know where you want the aircraft to be relative to speed, attitude, configuration. FULL of anticipation. You anticipate the required throttle movement, anticipate the required trim and anticipate the required attitude. No reactions, all anticipation. With anticipation comes smoothness. Controls are pressed lightly. Controls are pressed into position and trimmed to stay there. Don’t press a control unless it needs to be pressed. Always apply half as much pressure as seems to be needed and you will achieve the smoothness of a favourite drink. Fatigue becomes a factor in instrument flying but it is not physical. The instrument pilot flies so lightly that the controls spend most of their time not moving. Things stay where they are supposed to stay because they were put there in the first place.

The argument as to whether you use elevator or throttle to control airspeed and altitude is moot. Neither work independently of the other to control airspeed and altitude. Elevator, by itself, controls attitude. Power, by itself, controls thrust. Stabilized flight conditions such as level or glide slope do require that elevator control altitude and power to control airspeed. In another situation, where by design, power is not a variable, elevator is used to adjust speed. Elevator gives relatively fine speed control when speed is a priority. To do this altitude must be available to lose or gain. Power tends to be coarse, slow, and inaccurate when controlling airspeed.

Instrument flying by itself could be relatively easy if it weren’t for all the other things you are expected to do. Time writing, talking, listening, feeling for things, looking for things take you away from scanning. Even with good preparation and cockpit organization you will need to take time away from your scan. The solution lies in the scan itself.
A good scan will allow you to have time to deal with all the other things.

An autopilot makes it easier but the proficient pilot must be able to hand-fly the plane and still do the required operational tasks. Being prepared means more than just having things where you know where to look and reach, it includes detection and covering of inoperative instruments. Being prepared, includes competency on partial panel. You may be one of those pilots who fly better when there are fewer instruments to watch. The attitude indicator gives most of the information you need. Over reliance on the attitude indicator leads to neglect of the confirming impact of other instruments. You may set the standard rate using the AI if you know your airspeed. But confirming the standard rate with the turn coordinator should be part of the full panel scan. The attitude resolution of the AI is more sensitive and less perceptible than is the resolution obtained from the VFR nose/horizon scale. The fact that aircraft loading and attitude can be adjusted visually come into conflict with the idea that the AI can be reset for these same loading and attitudes.

Instrument flying requires that the pilot be sensitive to and get control pressure feedback from the airplane. This cannot be easily done with a tight full-fist grip on the yoke. It cannot be well done with a tight several finger grip either. It is best done with only a finger and thumb. The way you hold the controls has a direct relationship with the fatigue you will experience in flying. Control feel will tell you what is happening several seconds before the instruments are able to register.

A tight grip does NOT give you the sense of control when flying an airplane any more than it does when driving a car. A beginning driver holds on tight with both hands and jerks the steering wheel this way and that. The experienced driver drives with a couple of fingers resting lightly. The same idea applies to flying. You will have better control with a light touch. The combination of a light touch and an organized scan will give even the single pilot plenty of time to do the ‘other’ things required by IFR.

The instrument pilot is thinking ahead of the airplane. There is a specific altitude, heading, and airspeed for every situation. He is mentally there ahead of the aircraft and presses it (the airplane) into position. Once the airplane is controlled, instrument flying skills move to the instruments.

An airplane in a specific configuration will perform consistently according to its power and attitude. Learn to set power and trim for attitude and you will get consistent performance. Adjust trim only when making a, power or airspeed change. If you can maintain a consistent application of trim it will be relatively easy to use the aircraft instruments to keep it there. This system called "control and performance" relies on the AI and anticipation. Do not fly with the trim. Set the attitude with the yoke; then, trim off the pressure. The feel of the aircraft on the yoke is the common denominator to all flight configurations. Proper trim makes the feel of the aircraft remain as a flight constant.

You must be able to trim efficiently and effectively to keep a given flight condition. Every pilot flies with a different trim pressure or feel. This is a matter of an acquired individual comfort zone. Regardless, the pressure must be such that it corrects for any inherent instability in the aircraft. Very few aircraft can be flown hands off. With aircraft peculiarities as a known factor it is a waste of emotional energy to blame the airplane for its performance or failure to perform. The competent pilot makes the airplane give its best performance. The same might be said for riding horses or living with someone.

One factor in trim feel is the position of the microphone switch. Use of this switch cannot be allowed to affect the flight path. The position in front, back, or side of the yoke can make a difference in how triggering of the switch affects the yoke feel and pressure. If you climb, descend or turn when keying the mike try a change in position.

IFR Climb and Descent
You must include in your IFR planning the vertical aspect. Every IFR departure has a climb gradient that your are expected to meet or exceed. Ground speed determines your gradient. Groundspeed divided by 60 equals vertical speed divided by gradient. Jeppesen has a chart of gradients.

Adequate gradient figures for either climb and descent can be obtained by rounding the feet per minute by the distance in miles.
540' rounded to 5 over distance of two miles 2 gives angle of 2.5 degrees

To find gradient per mile you just multiply angle by 100
Angle of 2.5 x 100 = 250' per mile

To convert angle to rate of climb/descent use E6B or work proportion
Ground speed VSI
60 feet per mile (gradient)

IFR departures have obstacle-clearance gradient of 1.5 degrees. that begins 35' above departure end of runway. A .5 degree safety margin is built in so you must make good a 2-degree climb rate. If you accept a DP with a higher rate required you are expected to perform. ATC en route climb rates are 150 feet per mile below 5000'; 120 between 5k and 10k; and, 100' above 10k.

If below 5,000' you are told to gain 3000' before crossing a particular fix you would do the following.
At 150 feet per mile required converts to 1.5 angle.
3000' converts to 30, divide by 1.5 = 20.
You must begin climb 20 miles out.

ATC usually expects a climb or descent rate of 500 feet per minute. A pilot-discretion clearance means you can choose both when to initiate and at what rate. Once an altitude has been left it cannot be attained again without an amended ATC clearance. Any DP clearance that has a climb gradient is concerned with terrain clearance. Crossing restrictions have more to do with traffic routes that may conflict. When climb and crossing restrictions appear together be careful.

Don’t hesitate to request radar vector to assure clearance of terrain. This puts clearance responsibility back to ATC. 300 ft/nm is the maximum TERPS gradient for the intermediate segment; 400 ft/nm is the maximum for the FAF to TDZ elevation. The more closely you fly the required elevations and descents the more likely will be your approach a stabilized one.

All About Visibility
The distance at which you can see and identify unlighted objects is day visibility. Night visibility is by how far you can see a lighted object. Atmosphere containing fog, haze, clouds has visibility measured by statute miles or hundreds of feet.
Flight Visibility
How far on average you can see from the cockpit forward and horizontally as determined by the pilot.
Ground Visibility
The prevailing (over 50-percent of the horizon) distance at which an accredited weather observer can see reference points.
Prevailing Visibility
How far you can see over at least half of the horizon on average.
Runway Visibility Value (RVV)
An electronic measuring system for a specific runway of visibility in fractions of a mile.
Runway Visual Range (RVR)
Uses instrument to tell the pilot how far he can expect to see from the aircraft down the runway in hundreds of feet.

Using IFR

Set personal minimums and live by them.
Get a real time weather map sequence of what has happened, is happening and about to happen.
The FSS has this picture of the weather transmittable to you in the near future but told to you now.
Phone local airports to get real-time local weather.
Ask ATC and FSS to put out calls for PIREPs.
Locate an alternate to use before you takeoff.
You need visibility to land legally.
Wait if the weather is improving, try always to fly into improving weather.
Don't fly if you don't have an OUT.

IFR Rating Allows You to

Make a zero-zero IFR takeoff
Get an IFR rating without being qualified for flying IFR.
Avoid midair collisions by making every flight an IFR flight.


People with GPS are more willing to fly VFR-on-top and to scud run.
VFR-on-top should never be flown unless weather is improving at destination and alternate
When weather does not improve or deteriorates, deviate sooner than later.
Bring some good reading material

Rudder Trim in IFR
But should you ever go IFR or practice some ILS/Localizer approaches, you'll see exactly what that rudder trim is for. When you're trying to keep exactly on the centreline of an airway with a substantial crosswind, you'll want to use rudder, not aileron, to hold the line. Your foot will get tired on an extended run between VORs or ADF beacons.  The plane without rudder trim is in trim for only one speed, cruise. You have to hold right rudder in climb and some left rudder in descent. Rudder trim allows you to trim all of the pressure off for any speed. It is more comfortable on long cross country flights to be able to fly with both feet flat on the floor. You won't use the rudder trim much during VFR flying except for small adjustments to centre the ball.

Altitude Selection

First, plan the route
Second, select altitude best for your aircraft, weather avoidance and equipment
Third, adjust your route for #2
Higher is better if it lets you see and avoid weather
Above 18,000 you will need jet charts.
Above 18,000 icing is a year long problem

MOA Item

Any flight into an MOA above 18,000 must be IFR
High altitude MOAs are called ATCAAs (Air Traffic Controlled Assigned Airspace
An ATCAA is restricted airspace
Consider flying VFR below 18000.

KISS Flying

Taxi on lines
Land on lines centred on touchdown point
Fly centred LOC needles
Exact heading , altitudes and airspeeds

An IFR Solution to Turbulence
Do it like its done on instruments a certain pitch setting and a certain power setting yield a certain performance for a given configuration, every time! Set the power, set the attitude and hold both- everything else will take care of itself. Don't chase anything and let the aircraft ride the bumps, remember it's stable! Fix the big deviations by always returning the plane to the known attitude.

Night IFR

Lighter traffic at night means you are more likely to get an off-airway direct route
Any night flight increases the risk of a fatal accident VFR or IFR
Major factor is possibility/probability for going from VFR into IMC without notice.
The effects of hypoxia at night are more dramatic at night than during daylight.
Oxygen should be used above 7000 feet at night.
With half of U.S. pilots over 40 and probably wearing glasses, the use of red cockpit lighting affects acuity.
Visual depth of field is much less with the pupils dilated. Clear focus is more difficult.
Small plates notes will be more difficult to read at night.
Suggest using CD Jeppesen plates and enlarging for night flights.
--Like altitude and airspeed, you need flashlights
Know your cockpit blindfolded and practice locating all instruments, switches, breakers and knobs.
Know which way to turn or twist knobs. Make large movements of the OBS.
Make a night diagram of the breaker panel.
At night use well lighted instrument runways and fly the glide slope.
Circling approaches are NOT good single pilot operations in right turns at night.
Confirm fuel and service availability well before it becomes important.
There no way to confirm the extent of icing at night. except with a flashlight.
A cloud and terrain appear the same at night, stay high if you don't know where you are.
Night slant visibility will be much less than vertical visibility, plan accordingly.
Precipitation can only be seen with light at night.
Night IFR will compound problems easily handled in daylight;
IFR system is designed to keep you in radar contact as much as possible.
Flying IFR traffic is always separated from other IFR traffic
Know your approach plates before you fly at night.
Cockpit lighting will not help you find something beneath your seat

Big Picture IFR into Small Places

A big runway with good lights will get you below minimums in an emergency
Use of a flight planning program may take you beyond the safe limits of the aircraft
Winds aloft forecasts are quite likely to be in error
Fuel consumption planning needs larger margins when low IFR is forecast.
Thunderstorms that are scattered or isolated can be avoided VFR or IFR
Aircraft congregate in areas of the best weather.
Planning for situations involving low visibility and low ceilings are best not flown
You are likely to fly into poor IFR situations at airports where you are very familiar
Never select a non-precision approach in low IFR where an ILS with strobes may be available
Always file an alternate, even a paper alternate, to keep it legal
When departing PART 91 below minimums always have a nearby alternate with precision approach
Part 135 departure minimums are safer than Part 91's .
You may as well file for preferred routes because that is what you will get.
Weather and traffic may change the preferred routings.
Once you are en route begin to negotiate to cut the corners
The way you request changes is just as important as what you ask for.
ATC has a way of not hearing your request. This can mean that the controller is negotiating with another facility. A bit later you may well get your request. It pays not to push too soon nor too hard.
If weather is a critical consideration for your route selection make phone contact on the ground.
Preferred routes can be avoided by filing two intermediate plans that allow a more direct route. Works!
If you can plan a route that will keep you in radar contact, you will probably get it.
Centre computers are more likely to have airway intersections in flight planning data base than small airports.
Best time to contact Flight Watch for weather updates is at the top of the hour.
Weather changes and trends can be detected by listening to en route ATIS, AWOS and ASOS
Ask Flight Watch to solicit PIREPS. Flight Watch can even phone an out of your range AWOS
Always check with 'locals' for help with unpublished clearances you may get. Santa Monica has such.
If weather is below minimums at your planned destination, get a new and better destination immediately.
If ice is below you, you will be better off to stay on top via the full approach with a rapid descent.
Planning 30 minutes ahead is the way to fly IFR.
Recognize that you may be better off on the ground now than in the air later.
Most IFR accidents occur in low ceiling and low visibility conditions not icing and storms
Do not fly in low IFR conditions without a legitimate alternate close by.
The more you fly in IFR the more confident and capable you will become.
Do not let weather drive your personal minimums beyond your comfort level.
Just because you have planned a flight does not mean that conditions cannot cancel it.
IFR capability offers a pilot a false hope that conditions will provide safety.
Circling approaches require planning, reading of the notes, a different MDA, and timed close in turns.
Transition from IFR reference to VFR reference in low visibility is both difficult and dangerous.
Go missed as soon as the flight visibility gets below what is required for the procedure.
In a circling approach the landing runway must be in sight at all times, and
No descent below circling altitude until in position to make a normal landing.

Stabilize Early Technique

Power set
Trim for speed
Hands off speed set
Gear down
Required flaps
Power reduction for descent

Emergency Knowledge

Where is alternate air (carb or injection)
Emergency gear extension
Autopilot cut offs
Runaway trim
Vacuum pump
Glide in configurations

Six IFR Instrument Configurations
Pitch and power to give speed and performance sought.

--Initial (between angle and rate speed)
Cruise (Compromise of economy and efficiency)
Power reduction but same speed going down (6-700 fpm)
Precision descent (475 fpm)
Non-precision descent (13" for 800 fpm)
Vectoring speed before intercept

Vacuum Failures

Good news…Only average of four vacuum failures in IFR conditions per year.
Bad mews…Everyone involved was killed.
1/3 of failures occurred at night.
Two out of five backup systems failed during the occasion.
A backup clear across the cockpit has NOT proven to be of value during actual emergencies.
A good gyro will come to speed even at idle.
A good gyro will spin up even at idle.
Accidents have resulted when gyros have not had enough time to reach required speed.
Don't hesitate, fly the plane, declare an emergency only if you have time.
Correct one axis of flight at a time is proven method for recovery.

Anticipate your Expectations

Get your weather updates early
After setting a flip-flop frequency set the standby before talking
Write down your frequencies so you can preset the next one on your flip-flop
Keep your Ident codes droning low so you know NAVs are working
If you start having planning problems, request delaying vectors of 2 minute legs when holding.
Give values to what you do. Killer items come first.
Keep the scan ball in the air all the time.
Organize your cockpit, frequencies, charts, tools
Do not read back clearances you have not checked for route
Check your times en route at intersections, figure the winds
Get the ATIS early, early, early.
Maintain traffic watch and radio watch for traffic.
Catch-up by requesting delaying vector.
It never hurts to ask where vectors are taking you.
On approach fly the plane, know where you are.
Know where you are using the ADF
Use ADF needle to marker to anticipate vector turns
Mark your alternate charts
Use your right seater
Use your checklists
Keep your cockpit sterile
Become a collector of outside the box (airplane) information
Distractions land distracting or not, your choice.
Scan quickly, fly lightly