IFR Flight Training Advice

A friend of mine flies a Saratoga and has worked on his Instrument Ticket off and on for a couple of years. Now he has arranged a block of time and would like to go somewhere to get a very solid IFR intensive course. He is based in Seattle and would like to do it somewhere else.

The school we are most familiar with is Flight Safety. We were wondering if any of you have experience with the Flight Safety programs or alternatively would recommend some other school highly.

The school should be a well equipped one with in-house simulators, etc. He is also hoping to get some multi-engine or unusual attitude experience.

Thanks for any help.


In reply to:

He is based in Seattle and would like to do it somewhere else.

Not really my business, but: why go somewhere else? Seattle is the best place to get instrument training.
I got my IFR there in 1999. By the time I finished the training, I had more than 20 hours of “actual” instrument time. That was an invaluable advantage in confidence – and, more important, I believe in skill – when it comes to using an instrument rating in the real world. It’s one thing to fly an ILS down to theoretical minimums with the hood on. It’s something very different to fly in the clouds, with an instructor, until you’re 200 or 300 feet above the runway and then look out and see it there.
In much of the rest of the country, it’s not that easy to get a large amount of safe “actual” IMC time. In the midwest and on the east coast, “actual” time in the summer often involves thunderstorms, and actual time in the winter often involves icing. On the west coast, there’s not that much actual time to be had, except (a) marine-layer fog along the Calif coast, or (b) smog/haze in the LA Basin.

In Seattle, the typical weather is “safe” IMC – a low but non-turbulent cloud layer. In the winter icing can be a factor, but if you stay on the low, western side of the Cascades the clouds are usually low enhough to let you go “actual” without getting iced. There are airports all over the place – plus Boeing Field, the biggest and most convenient GA airport in any big city. For normal living conditions, Seattle’s weather is a bug rather than a feature – but for IFR training it’s ideal. Why go anywhere else?

Tom, I went to Flight Safety in Wichita every other year (I alternated with Recurrent Training in Champaign, IL) for recurrent training in my Duke. It was absolutely first rate training but was airplane specific (that’s why I went). For IFR training I agree with the others. Stay in Seattle, get a really good instruuctor who flies IFR lots and fly in the clouds. Nothing teaches IFR like flying real IFR.


Having completed the Cirrus IFR program at Wings Aloft at BFI, I had exactly the conditions Jim described. Great workout.

Since then, I’ve enjoyed flying IFR on 4 across-the-US trips. Getting concentrated training in actual conditions before making these trips with occasional IMC made me realize how valuable the training conditions were. Pheww!!

By the way, your question reminds me of advice I got as a PhD candidate – get your ticket punched quickly and then worry about doing you best work later!

As Woor used to say, “Have a great Cirrus day!”


I also agree that the type of conditions described would be ideal for training. Popping out of the clouds (lifting the foggles) with 5+ miles of visibility is not the same as popping out with 1-2 miles like he would experience in that area. You can’t pay enough for that type of experience as a new instrument pilot. Just make sure that he gets in touch with a capable instructor. The intesive type of training can be extremely beneficial. As far as Flight Safety, I know that FS academy in Vero Beach does offer programs in Multi as well as upset training, but he should be able to get that anywhere. That could give a new meaning to cross-country training!!!

There is no feeling in aviation like flying an “actual” approach during training. Also, you absolutely want to talk with your 'II" about inducing vertigo during a climb into a low undercast. My 1st time, my Instructor watched me lose it, roll the plane 45deg and nose up with the airspeed bleeding off as I was CERTAIN we were heading down and nothing the gauges said WERE MAKING ANY SENSE. I looked outside to see if I could borrow the down payment to perhaps purchase an option on a clue as to what to do…nothing but maalox…As I was about to tell Obi Wan, “your airplane”… I heard…"nothing on the outside will help, use your training (force) and work your scan…

4 hrs. (about 10 seconds) later, the spins were exorcised and the experience bag got a little heavier…When I hit it again without Wayne, it was do-able…moral of the story. IFR training should include as much actual as possible and a healthy dose of discomfort with the luxury of your favorite Jedi in the right seat…


Thanks all for the good advice.

Maybe a couple of clarifications as why to look outside of Seattle. First, my friend has struggled to focus on the IFR training with work, family, etc. so the thought is that if he gets out of town …You get the idea. How many of us can take a vacation and stay at home. Second (and this may come as a surprise to most folks), the weather is actually quite clear in Seattle between July 5th (always rains on the 4th especially if you decide to go camping) and mid September. I know that holds for most of the country as well. Maybe I should suggest that he dash down to Texas.

Again, I do appreciate the good advice and wisdom represented here. This site is a great resource.


Tom: Another possibility is Portland Hillsboro, KHIO. They have a lot of “good” IFR weather there (clouds but not usually freezing or turbulent ones). I was fortunate to have a great CFII in California but I needed Oregon flight time for sales tax reasons.

We stayed at the West Coast hotel right across the street from the airport (mention Hillsboro Aviation and they will give you a room at $59).

I don’t know specifically about the local CFII’s but they do a lot of instrument training at Hillsboro Aviation. The CFII I work with went back to Duluth just after I got there and did the Cirrus factory transition course from the right seat.

Take a look at the KHIO weather. We did a lot of training at Salem KSLE. There are multiple instrument approaches there and generally very little traffic. There is generally a lot of flight training at KHIO so there may be some delays there.

Hillsboro Aviation has a web site that is fairly extensive. You might want to take a look at it. It’s not too far from Seattle.

I don’t know about the Saratoga. Hillsboro Aviation seems to fly mostly 172’s. Give them a call about the Saratoga. It would be great if you could find a CFII with lots of Saratoga time.