right up to the point of filing the flight plan. This is a greatway to practice getting weather, looking at NOTAMs, select-ing alternates, determining fuel reserves, reviewingapproach charts, etc.Get your IFR clearance, and load the navigation radios orthe GPS flight plan before leaving the parking area. Youlearned this in primary IFR training, but it is one of the keysto good SPIFR. The pros do it this way so that when theyget to the run-up pad it takes just a minute or so for thefinal before-takeoff check, and it doesn’t hold up aircraftbehind them. Feeling rushed on the run-up pad is a primecause of mistakes.If the aircraft has a ground power switch, so much the bet-ter. You’ll save 10 minutes of engine time if you can obtainATIS, get an en route clearance and program the GPS priorto engine start. Pilots flying airplanes without a groundpower switch often carry a hand-held aviation transceiverfor the express purpose of listening to ATIS and getting anIFR clearance, all before starting the engine, which alsostarts the Hobbs meter.
Equipment—How Much is Enough?
Let's take the airplane first. Is the equipment right for the job? Light IMC—say, an 800-foot overcast and three milesvisibility, with reasonably smooth air in a low density areashouldn’t be too challenging if you are familiar with the air-craft. But think ahead. Suppose a crucial piece of equip-ment, perhaps the vacuum pump, fails on this flight? Haveyou recently practiced controlling the aircraft on partialpanel (without the artificial horizon and directional gyro?)One way to minimize the chance you’ll have an in-flightemergency is to make sure all the maintenance and inspec-tion requirements for the aircraft and its accessories are upto date. If you own the aircraft, that should be easy; pilotswho rent aircraft, however, typically put faith in the FBO’smaintenance practices.Where there’s a choice, renters should look for an FBO will-ing to put a little extra into its IFR airplanes, both in equip-ment and maintenance. There is nothing worse thanlaunching into instrument conditions with poor qualityequipment that doesn’t work or doesn’t work well. A panelwith equipment that would be acceptable for low densityVFR operations may be completely inappropriate for the IFRenvironment. If it doesn’t work, turn it back in!One more caution: if the rental aircraft is new to you, andyou’re not yet comfortable with this particular type of air-plane or its avionics suite, don't gamble on an IFR flight—get dual instruction!Today, minimum IFR equipment is usually considered to bedual nav/coms, an audio panel with marker beacon receiv-er, and a transponder with Mode C. Many pilots would addat least a yoke-mounted GPS as a supplement to theapproved IFR equipment. (No yoke-mounted GPS unit isapproved for use as a primary navigation unit for anyrequired IFR GPS or DME functions.) Here are some otheritems that can greatly reduce your workload and are highlyrecommended for SPIFR:
1.High quality navigation and communication radios—
They have to work well—no excuses.
2.Headset and push-to-talk switch—
missed radio callsand poor quality radio transmissions hamper the pilot’s abil-ity to communicate effectively, which raises both pilot andATC workload when transmissions have to be repeated. Theability to talk without reaching for a hand microphone elim-inates a major distraction, and a headset provides cleareraudio reception, minimizing missed or misunderstood trans-missions. Invest in the best quality equipment you canafford. Active noise canceling headsets are expensive butworth every penny if you plan to do much IFR flying.
slaved to a heading bug is invaluable forkeeping the airplane right side up and going in the properdirection while the pilot reads charts, copies revised clear-
Safe Pilots. Safe Skies. •
More is not necessarily better when it comes to flight gear andpilot accessories.