Monday, December 31, 2012

The End of Another Year

We are in the last moments of 2012 here in Northern California. I have been trying to think of what to say about this year for some time now. Its hard in a way. My flying has been the high point of my year for certain. The adventures, new learning and simple joy of flying have kept me going while I've struggled through other parts of my life. The walk out on the ramp, flight bag over my shoulder, airplane bag in my hands, examining my plane as I approach starts the process of clearing my mind and focusing it on that singularly wonderful experience of flying. My family and friends have shared the joys and struggles with me and I've shared their joys and struggles as well. I am very grateful for these people who have been there for me in good times and in bad.

I've seen many people refer to to 2013 as "Lucky 13".
Wishing you all, my friends, my family ... a "Lucky 13", blue skies, and tail winds. 
Happy New Year!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas Eve

After a very wet three days where my home received over 10 inches of rain, the skies cleared and it was time to fly. It was also Christmas Eve and I like to spend holidays off flying with family or friends. I was anxious to show my husband, Jeff, what its like to do an actual instrument flight and there were some low clouds around, meaning I could get some actual too.

The night before (Christmas Adam as my siblings and I call it) I planned and filed an IFR flight plan to fly to Fresno Chandler Executive Airport (FCH) in the club's 180HP 172... why on earth fly to Fresno on Christmas Eve? Because Jeff and I recently decided that we wanted to fly to all of the airports we'd never flown before in California and Fresno is on that list. There was a good chance of getting some actual instrument conditions, not too much, but just enough.

I woke up Christmas Eve morning and did a quick check of the weather, everything looked good to go. I went downstairs to make breakfast and drink my morning coffee. Strangely I get a text message with a picture of an empty tie down spot where the plane should be.

My friend was at the airport practicing for his private license and noticed I had the plane reserved for later in the morning, so he went to check it out for the earlier morning... at which point he realized the plane was not there! He gave me a heads up to the situation. It turns out the person who rented the plane for the weekend before didn't bring the plane back yet. I was just SOL.

Time for a change in plans, I didn't want to fly the other 172s to Fresno, it would take a bit longer than I wanted to spend. So I filed another IFR flight plan for Half Moon Bay, a closer airport that required either dodging or flying through San Francisco's Class Bravo airspace. We would fly to Half Moon Bay IFR then fly our return down the coast and drop by South County to meet up with another friend and say Hi. 

I choose to fly without the foggles. I was curious to see if I could maintain the straight tracks and precise altitudes required for IFR flying while able to see out the window instead of monitoring the instruments 100% of the time. I am happy to say, I could without a problem. All of the flight was done via radar vectors until I was cleared for the approach. Unfortunately we were given altitudes that kept us just above or below the scattered clouds. I was bummed. When cleared for the approach we were in severe clear conditions and there were 4 or 5 planes in the pattern at Half Moon Bay so I cancelled IFR and flew into the VFR traffic pattern there and landed. Jeff mentioned that did not seem much more complicated than flying on a Bay Tour through SFO airspace. In reality, that particular flight wasn't.

After a nice lunch we went back to the plane and launched south to fly along the coast and head towards South County Airport. This time we stayed neatly under the Class Bravo shelf and clear of clouds. There were enough clouds that I didn't want to try to squeeze between them and the ridges around 3000 feet between the coast and South County so I went further south towards Watsonville and planned on cutting across near that airport.

About 5 miles past Watsonville we were headed for the ridgeline and ready to cut back into the Santa Clara valley when I heard a voice on the Watsonville CTAF.
Watsonville Traffic, radio check please, testing new equipment. Watsonville.
I didn't anyone reply, so I figured I would.
Watsonville radio check, you are loud and clear from 2,500 feet and 5 miles away.
The voice responded.
Roger that, Thanks alot. 
My reply..
No problem. Merry Christmas!
And his reply sounded almost surprised and very happy, you could hear the smile in his voice.
Well, Merry Christmas to you!

We stopped at South County and visited with our friend for a bit. It was great to see him. Then it was time to head back to RHV. One the way back I leveled off at 2500 feet, called in to the tower at the right time and tried to time my descent to do a nice stabilized descent right to the runway... it worked! I lined up for the runway from 5 or 6 miles away, set up a 500 fpm descent and keep that rate nailed. I've never done a descent as nice as that one (at least not when able to see!) It was a great way to top off a great flying day.

So, Merry Christmas again my friends... may the Christmas season bring you and yours peace, joy and happiness with time well spent with family and friends enjoying their company and all of the wonderful things life has to offer.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Flying a 182

N20791 - a Cessna 182P on the line at the flight club.
Never one to rest on my laurels long, as soon as I could after getting my Instrument Rating I arranged to start working on my high performance rating with my CFI.  I'm not sure "rating" is the right term but the FAA requires additional flight training and sign off by CFI before someone can act as PIC in a high performance aircraft.

A Cessna 182 is essentially an overweight Cessna 172 with a high horsepower engine and constant speed propeller. Flying a the 182 introduces the concepts of managing manifold pressure via the throttle and RPM via the prop controls.  It also challenges a 172 pilot's capability to stay ahead of a plane that is suddenly going quicker than a typical 172 will. Top cruise speed on a 182P is about 20 knots faster than the 172N. They can carry more payload and fuel and fly higher as well.

I had flown in 182s many times since my husband, Jeff, got signed off to fly them two years ago. On longer trips I've taken the controls (or sometimes the autopilot monitoring duties) and flown while he rested or did other things, so I'm not totally unfamiliar with the way the planes handle in the air. I also have the advantage of having watched how Jeff's managed manifold pressure and prop before. I believe this experience is serving me well so far.

I've done two flights in the 182 shown here to date. The first flight was late in the day so I did my very first landing in a 182 at night (thus the dark picture above). Not the best possible situation but I did pretty well. I was all smiles as we taxied back to the club to park the plane and told my CFI that it was fun. I really enjoyed how comfortable I felt flying the plane... Even in a new type of plane, maneuvers such as turning, climbing, descending, and straight and level flight require no conscious thought to make the plane do what I want. I am a much less awkward bird than I used to be when I started this blog :)

It is a lot of fun to learn new airplane systems and operations after spending so long flying 172s. So far I like managing manifold pressure actively on climb and descent. While I am accustomed to using the sound of the engine RPM as another input on airplane attitude and a constant speed prop removes that input, I like being able to set the RPM and leave it there.  A big difference between flying a 182 and a 172 is the glide characteristics (or lack thereof) of the 182. If you pull power on a 172 it glides pretty well. If flown right you can pull power abeam the numbers, fly a standard pattern and land on those numbers without adding power once in a 172. In a 182.... forget it. The thing glides like a brick. So I have to fly the plane with power on all the way down to round out and then pull power slowly. Once the plane is in landing attitude right over the runway, pull the last bit of power out and the plane lands smoothly. I got to practice that two more times (in daylight) on my second flight and did well.

The biggest challenge of flying a 182 for me is the descent planning. A 182 is the first plane that I've flown where the saying "you can't go down and slow down" is true. Reduce manifold pressure to start the descent, airspeed increases significantly. I have to slow the plane down too. That requires a plan for that as a separate phase of flight. It takes longer to slow down in a 182 than a 172. Not only that, I have to plan on a smooth reduction of manifold pressure, adding of fuel (mixture) and reduction of altitude to get to the right altitude at the right speed with the right manifold pressure and mixture so I can start the deploying the flaps for the approach. Its a good thing flying itself doesn't require so much attention anymore because this descent process certainly does.

My next 182 flight will be in a bit over a week. In the mean time I'm planning on taking Jeff with me on an instrument flight on Christmas Eve if the weather is good enough. In the mean time, its nice to be reviewing my notes and planning my strategy for both 182 flying and instrument flying. I'm in my happy place - learning about flying.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Merry Christmas :)

Merry Christmas from Boulder Creek, CA. Home of the forever mist. The forever mist is this light mist/drizzle that can rain constantly on our little mountain town for days on end, yet never appear on radar. Today it was misting hard, but that never bothers us mountain folk... we just get damp and carry on.

All three members of our little family were in town for long enough this weekend to join in the holiday spirit and decorate our home for Christmas. In this process my husband and I decided it would be cool to edge our long, steep, drive way with lights. From this view it looks like our driveway has runway edge lights. That is appropriate for a family with two pilots.

Merry Christmas to all and hopefully some good flying too!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Instrument Training - By the Numbers

I read recently a person can plan on spending about the same amount as they spent on their private pilot license on the training required for an instrument rating.  My experience was very different.

I started my instrument training in March 2012 and did the first half of my check ride on November 1, 2012, the second half on December 3, 2012. During that time I had, I think, at least three breaks of 3 weeks or more in the training process due to illness, vacations and travel. I also had a month delay between the oral and flight portions of my instrument check ride.

I did a combination of home study and one on one ground school with my CFII at the same time as the simulator and flight training to complete the knowledge requirements of the rating.  I did all but one of my instrument practice / training flights with my CFII.

Let's look at the numbers...

Simulator Time (17.9 instrument hours)
13.5 hours logged in a Frasca 131
4.4 hours logged in a Redbird
Approximately 3 hours of solo practice in the Frasca 131 not logged

Flight Time (37.3 instrument hours)
52.4 hours flight time of which 37.3 hours were simulated or actual instrument time (only .5 actual)
27.5 of those instrument hours were before I was ready for the check ride. The remaining 10ish instrument hours were from me practicing and maintaining proficiency with my CFII while waiting for the check ride and the check ride itself

CFII Time not included above
33 hours (includes ground school, flight brief and debriefs and general Q&A)

Total instrument hours to get ready for check ride: 45.4 hours
Total instrument hours from start of training through check ride: 55.2 hours

Your mileage will vary. I am happy to report this amount of time / expense was significantly less than spent on my private license.

I just want to fly

A note to all you who make your living flying, or do not have to make your living in other ways than flying, or maybe you are retired and fly for fun. Value what you have, it is priceless to those who do not.

I was seated next to a gentleman tonight for dinner in Macau, China who was introduced to flight when he was 12 years old. Who immediately took to instrument flying and has an instinctual understanding of how the instruments not only describe the world around you while flying blind, but can help you navigate through it.  I told him about recently gaining my instrument rating and he was so congratulatory about it. He, who doesn't have a PPL. He who has been dreaming of flight since he was 12 years old. He's 62 years old now. He's lucky. He has his health. He has the funds to do flight training starting this year. I wish him the very very best.

I guess I'm writing this to say to all current aviators, no matter what your particular vocation is.... please value what you have. Please stop for a moment and notice the joy of what you do. I can guarantee you, there are many vocations that do not and probably will never have the term "joy" attached to an activity. As you sit there in the pattern yet again, or dealing with a crappy captain on a regional jet or dealing with the unfriendly passengers as you fly your jet across the Atlantic or Pacific, look out the window, enjoy the view or the grey of the inside of a cloud. If not for yourself, do it for me and for people like me who want nothing more than to be there with you.... those who just want to fly.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Instrument Check Ride - Flight

Good to Go

I got an email late Friday night from the DPE saying she double booked herself for Tuesday the 4th and could I switch to Monday the 3rd. The weather might even be good that day. I checked my calendar and I could. Monday would be 12-3-12. I liked the symmetry of the date. I did my PPL check ride on 11-9-11. 12-3-12 seemed right for some reason.

When I got up Monday morning all online weather data showed clear or, at worst, patchy fog. Light winds were forecast for all altitudes I would be near. ATIS and AWOS for all airports on the route reported clear. Every airport reported calm winds. I wasn't sick. I got down to the airport to pre-flight the plane and the plane was fully functional. I checked the VOR receiver check logs and made a note that I needed to do a VOR check before we took off. I called Flight Services for a standard IFR weather briefing. The only AIRMET was for IFR conditions (not a problem for an IFR flight) and even the predicted IFR conditions were all south of my route. No TFRs or NOTAMs I was not already familiar with for the airports on my route. That was probably the shortest full weather briefing I'd ever had. I kept waiting for something to happen to prevent the flight, but nothing did.  I went back outside and cleaned the windscreen on the airplane, inside and out.

It was 15 minutes before my check ride was scheduled to begin and everything was good to go. I wasn't sure I believed it. It was actually going to happen this time. My adrenaline was pumping and I paced a bit. Then I got a bottle of water and sat and checked email on my phone as I waited. There was nothing else I could do. Nothing else I should do. I felt more nervous than I needed to, I thought. After so many delays, the flight was finally going to happen. All I had to do was not screw up. Just fly an instrument check flight according to the PTS. That's all. That's all?! That is one heck of a lot. But yeah, that's all.

I was staring at my phone when I heard a familiar voice, "Are you ready?" My CFI was done with his student and standing by the front desk. I was so distracted I didn't even hear him go by.  I smiled and told him I was almost too ready and I was very nervous. We talked about the finer points of making videos and his ideas for mounting a GoPro camera to the tail tie down of a plane as we waited for the DPE to arrive. This was a change, he was there "early" and she, the DPE, was running late.

Pre-Flight Briefing

The DPE arrived and we talked a bit about the recent storms. We all compared our relative rain measurements (I won with over 15" of rain measured at our house in the mountains!). I think all three of us, DPE, CFI and me, were excited about getting this ride finally done.  She went over the three possible outcomes of the flight: pass, fail and continuance. She also reminded me, no one does a perfect check flight. If I make a mistake, correct it and move on.

We discussed the plan for the flight. Pick up the clearance at RHV and depart the airport IFR. Then fly a GPS approach into Tracy with a procedure turn (counts as a hold), a circle to land at Tracy, then missed and partial panel VOR into Stockton, missed and ILS to Livermore followed by unusual attitude recovery. Along the way she would evaluate my flying, radio work, navigation, adherence to ATC clearances, cockpit resource management, etc, etc. against the Instrument PTS and special emphasis areas. With that we were walking out the plane and going to actually do the check ride. The sun was shining and there wasn't a bit of wind.

Pre Take Off

When we got to the plane I explained to the DPE where my binder with all of the paper instrument approach plates was in case we needed an approach at an airport we weren't planning on. I also pointed out the little binder I had within easy reach that had all of the approaches at the airports we were planning on in case we had to switch approaches for some reason. I asked her some detailed questions on what she was planning for the circle to land. Would we actually land or not? She seemed surprised by that question. I figured if this was an actual instrument flight I would figure out as much as possible on the ground, including where I was and was not likely to land. So I would do the same thing for the check flight.  Then I started to give her a passenger briefing. She said quickly I could do the pilot version of the passenger briefing.

We pulled the plane out and climbed in. The DPE reminded me to breathe. She could tell how tense I was. I took a deep breath but it didn't help much. I started going through my checklists both to prepare the plane for the flight and to try to calm my nerves. I contacted ground and told them we were pre-filed IFR to Tracy, the first airport of our route. I received the taxi clearance and taxied the plane to the run-up area, careful to keep eyes open for planes or other vehicles on the taxiways and checking the instruments as I taxied to make sure they behaved correctly. When I got to the run-up area I did my run-up and a VOR check.

I called ground for the IFR clearance. The ground controller read back the clearance very clearly and slowly.  Cessna 6525D cleared to the Tracy airport via left turn heading 290 Victor 334 SUNOL Victor 195 Manteca, Direct. Climb and maintain 3000 expect 5000 5 minutes after departure. Departure frequency 121.3 Squawk 0422. I copied it down and read it back flawlessly. So far, so good. I asked the DPE if she wanted to see me program the route into the GPS or load the previously saved route, she said to do what I would normally do. So I loaded the previously saved route, verified it matched the clearance I just got (it did) and then loaded the approach at Tracy. We were ready to go. I called the tower for IFR release, was told to stand by. 30 seconds later we were cleared for take off.

Radar Route of my Check Flight -
Some of the straightest tracks I've ever flown


We took off and flew the standard departure, left turn heading 290. Then things got a bit interesting, I was directed to fly a heading of 040 for a bit, and then back to 330 to intercept V334. When it was clear I'd intercept V334 the DPE told me to request direct to OYOSO. It was so quiet in the air ATC had no problem giving us that clearance. Actually for the whole flight every request we made was quickly approved. I requested pilot navigation from OYOSO so I could do the procedure turn there. Norcal told me I may have to do a couple turns in the hold for some reason and to report when established there. So I entered the hold and reported when established. Then we were cleared for the approach to Tracy. Per the DPE's instructions I asked at that time to cancel IFR but to continue this approach and other approaches VFR for faster routing. ATC obliged. 

First Approach

The first approach was the LPV into Tracy with a circle to land. The flying of the approach was actually easy, I did as I was trained and kept my corrections small. I let the DPE know we would have to circle to land to the northeast because southwest wasn't allowed. She asked why and I said, that's what's specified in the approach plate. I leveled off when I got down to the circling minimum and was told to go visual. Off came the foggles and I started the circle procedure until the DPE announced she was confident of the successful outcome of that procedure and directed me to execute the missed. For the first time I did all of the radio calls for this particular approach. There wasn't anyone in the pattern to hear the calls.

From Tracy to Stockton

I made sure to CLIMB on the missed and leveraged the VOR I had TunedAndIdentified earlier to choose the right heading to proceed to the Manteca VOR. The DPE brought out sticky-notes to cover the HI and AI and I was flying partial panel. I contacted NorCal and requested the next approach. They provided radar vector headings and I had no problem turning to the right heading or maintaining the right track. I did have one problem though... I was cleared to 2500 feet after the missed, which I leveled off at. After getting the next approach clearance NorCal told me the climb out instructions for Livermore would be heading 200 and altitude 2000. I wrote that down and repeated that back. I loaded the VOR 29R approach for Stockton and activated it using "vectors-to-final" as we were already on vectors. I was trying to get the weather for Stockton and the controller radioed back something about climb and maintain 3500. So I read back climb and maintain 3500 and started to climb. NorCal said nothing. The DPE asked me, Are you sure about that clearance? I told her what I thought it was but without prompting I contacted ATC and asked them to confirm the clearance. What the controller actually tried to do was tell me a revised clearance after Stockton to climb to 3500 when leaving Stockton. I read back the corrected clearance and advised ATC I was returning to 2500. Roger was all ATC said. You can see that brief climb towards (but not TO) 3500 feet in the picture below near the 8:40PM mark.
Altitude and Airspeeds for the check flight - courtesy

Stockton VOR

I let that mistake go, the check ride was still going on and I had to keep my head in the game. The distraction about the altitudes threw off my rhythm a bit and I had to get the weather. I got the weather and knew I'd be on the last vector for the approach soon. I started programming the radios for Stockton Tower and the DPE asked what approach I was doing. I said the VOR approach. I glanced at the VLOC/GPS indicator on the GPS. I had the right approach course on the OBS but the GPS was still set to GPS. That was going to be the next step to do, but I was definitely late doing it. I quickly hit that switch and TunedAndIdentified the Manteca VOR on the top VOR receiver. ATC announced the plane was three miles from the VOR and cleared me for the approach. I was only 2000' but I had 3500' in my mind so I was worried about getting down to the first step down altitude by the time I got to the VOR and then getting to the MDA right after that. I checked in with Stockton tower and was cleared for the option. At the same time I was doing a quick mental calculation of the descent rate I needed to make it down to the MDA in time for a potential "normal approach to landing". I did that descent rate, stayed on the right approach course and hit the MDA and leveled off briefly before doing the missed. Remember, all of this is going on while I'm flying with two of my six primary instruments covered - partial panel. I was glad I had so much practice flying partial panel.

Next Stop - Livermore

I hit the missed approach point and started a climb on the missed on runway heading as instructed by the tower. The sticky notes came off the instruments. When cleared I turned to a 200 heading and contacted NorCal again, continuing my climb to 3500 (there was no way I'd miss that altitude after my mistake earlier). I set the GPS to the next destination of Livermore and loaded the ILS 25R approach. We were on radar vectors but this time I loaded the approach from the point furthest away from the airport so I'd have the most options. The DPE wanted direct to FOOTO, so that's what I requested. We were cleared direct FOOTO immediately and had a long time to fly to the next airport. I got the weather from Livermore, flew the plane, programmed in the Livermore tower, flew the plane and remembered to TuneAndIdentify the ILS for Livermore well ahead of time.

The ILS into Livermore went smoothly, it was one of my better ILS approaches. While I was still nervous and keyed up, I was able to do it anway. I made sure my corrections were small and forced myself to not chase the needle instead focusing on keeping the wings level, just as taught. It worked. It amazes me how I am now able to fly that plane into a smaller and smaller "box" and keep it on the right track and glideslope using instruments alone. Great instruction, a lot of practice and some skill must be involved.

Unusual Attitudes

DH reached, I started a Vy climb on runway heading as cleared by Livermore Tower. I was instructed to squawk VFR and the DPE became my 'eyes' giving me headings and altitudes to fly on the way out of the Livermore area. She asked me if I could climb at 100 knots. That was a strange question. I said, yes, but I'm climbing out a Vy. She said she would prefer I climb at 100 knots so she could see to clear us for traffic. Oh! that made sense. I adjusted the pitch to a climb at 100 knots, still under the foggles and continued a climb up to 3000 feet. As I did that I thought about how cool it was I was so comfortable with flying by instruments that it wasn't difficult at all to use pitch to adjust to the the desired airspeed and keep it there.

Time for unusual attitudes, the last task I had to demonstrate. The DPE was careful to describe what would happen next, she would take the controls, put the plane into a nose up or nose down unusual attitude and I'd have to return the plane to straight and level flight. She also said she isn't near as 'rough' in the movements of the plane as some CFIs are ... I was happy about that. I was ready for this one. I had mentally practiced what I would do for unusual attitudes over and over in my head and with my hands until it got to the level of reflex.

She took the controls and I closed my eyes. I could hear the sound of the engine changing and feel the movements of the plane, but I knew not to trust my body. Ok, open your eyes and recover. I opened my eyes, we were in a nose high, turning attitude. Immediately my hands pushed power to full, pushed the nose level and then leveled the wings. I felt extra pressure on the yolk so I did a couple quick turns of the trim in order to reset the plane for hands free flight. She commented on that. She said no one's ever re-trimmed the plane before. I doubt it was a never thing, but it made me feel good that I did and it was positively recognized. Next unusual attitude would be nose down, I knew. She took the controls and I closed my eyes again. Open your eyes and recover. Nose down and turning attitude. Pull power, wings level, nose up, re-apply power and I was done. The last instrument maneuver was over. I was told to take off the foggles and take us home.

Take Her Home

We were over Calaveras reservoir with only one thing left to do. Go back to RHV and land. I couldn't let myself screw this one up. I got the weather and called into Reid-Hillview tower and forgot to mention I had the weather. The tower gave me the weather info. I thanked them for the help. I almost never screw up on radio calls and I've had some good mistakes today. Oh well. I'm still going. I came in for landing and managed for the first time in what seemed like months do to a good, square, base to final turn. I didn't even have to add power to make the runway. I felt very good about that.

And just like that it was over. I taxied the plane back to parking, went through the final checklist and shut it down. The DPE smiled and congratulated me on my successful flight. With that I was done. I had demonstrated all of the tasks in the Instrument PTS successfully, both in the oral test and in flight. I had earned my instrument rating.

We talked briefly about the flight and she offered a suggestion of creating my own pre-approach checklist to use on instrument flights. That may help me ensure I do the right things in the right order and not be so slow on that darned GPS/VLOC switch. That type of mistake can be fatal. I will definitely take up that suggestion.


As I pushed the plane back into its parking spot I was happy it was over. With so many delays for my check flight and before that, long breaks in my training that made the training take longer it could have, I felt more relieved than elated. Proud of my accomplishment, yes, but more happy that it was over than anything else.  I packed up my equipment and buttoned up the plane and then headed inside the club. The DPE printed out my temporary license a Private Pilot license with INSTRUMENT AIRPLANE on the back. She congratulated me again and said, halfway joking, she looked forward to being the DPE for my commercial ride. I assured her, this time next year, she would.

She left the club and I chatted a bit with the young man who manned the front desk. I had had many long chats with him since I started instrument training. Then I told the owner of the club that I was done, I had earned my rating. We joked around a bit. Time to call my CFI and share the happy results. If he wasn't there I wanted badly to leave him a message that I failed, just to tease him a bit, but I couldn't make myself do it. I didn't think I could pull it off. I got his voice mail and left a message saying simply, "I'm done. Give me a call." Fortunately for him, but unfortunately for my joke, the person he was on the phone with was the DPE, who told him that I passed!

He called me back and pointed out its not a good thing to leave that type of voice mail with a CFI as that would make a CFI concerned. I fessed up that I did that on purpose. We had a brief chat, he asked me for my perspective on the flight and then said it seemed that both I and the DPE appeared to have been in the same plane, which was a good thing. He congratulated me a couple times and asked how I felt. I had trouble explaining but he understood. He described it more like the feeling of getting over an illness. That was exactly right.

In the End

People say the instrument rating is the hardest to earn. It may have been hard, but I've enjoyed the learning and training process for my instrument rating thoroughly, even if I did not enjoy the wait to finally complete my rating. Now I can't wait to use it and fly in the clouds. A little bit at first and eventually more often. I'm also looking forward to flying under IFR rules. I like the increased involvement with the greater ATC system and knowing I won't have a problem finding an airport again if I file and fly IFR. I can't wait to use that rating to file IFR through Los Angeles airspace for instance. Another thing "they" say is a pilot's license is a license to learn. I'm already finding an Instrument Rating is a license to learn even more. If there's one thing I love, it is learning and experiencing more.