I earned my instrument rating over eight years ago. After hearing stories from other pilots who had gotten out of instrument currency, I swore up and down that I wouldn’t allow myself to lose currency. As I recall, I went up a whopping grand total of…wait for it!…one time after my instrument rating for the sole purpose of shooting instrument approaches and practicing VOR tracking and holds. Well, we all make mistakes. So when I moved back to New Orleans seven years ago, I wanted to get acquainted with the local instrument procedures, so I went up with an instrument instructor…once.
To tell you the truth, other than getting my instrument rating for safety, I had no plans to actually use it (obviously). I fly to see things. I fly for the freedom. So flying through clouds rather than above or below them and having to go through filing a flight plan and following all those procedures simply just did not fit the type of flying I like to do. And since I have flown literally from coast to coast and many places in between, all visually, I had yet to see the use in staying instrument current and proficient.
And, boy, am I paying for it now. In probably the most painful way an airplane owner can. After all the delays I’ve had that I couldn’t do anything about since buying my twin-engine plane (minor maintenance issues, then finding a qualified instructor with enough free time), this latest delay, and it’s a big one, is totally and completely 100% my own damn fault. I’m pathetically rusty on instrument flying and procedures. While the actual instrument flying skills have come back fairly quickly, all that knowledge tucked somewhere in the back of my head under all those other things I’ve used over the past eight years is now painfully slow to surface. So because of my intentional shunning of all things IFR, it’s now costing me more and more time to earn my commercial multi-engine rating, which means that I still can’t fly my new hotrod alone. Imagine buying a bigger and faster car with lots of neato doohickeys that you want to take everywhere and take all your friends for a ride in. But you have to wait…and wait…and wait. You get teased because you get to play with it a little, as long as someone is there to teach you, and you can see the potential and you daydream constantly about all the places you want to go in it. The wait was painful enough when it was things beyond my control, but it’s now even more painful knowing this could have been prevented and there’s no one else to blame but myself.
And now that I have this neato plane so that I can see even more swell places than before, I have to keep going up to practice instrument procedures and approaches with the hood on, so the only thing I see is my instrument panel. It’s truly punishment. Not to mention hard work. Sure, the heat here in this hottest of hot summers doesn’t help matters, but I come back soaked through from sweat, clammy, and nearly cross-eyed from focusing so intently on the panel less than two feet from my face. I feel like the title of the Jimmy Buffett song “My Head Hurts, My Feet Stink, and I Don’t Love Jesus”. Except that everything on me stinks and I don’t love anything. Least of all this instrument rigmarole. But, like any good martyr, I will accept temporary suffering for my plight. After all, I got myself into this predicament.