How much time did you have in the clouds before you went for your instrument check ride? Some pilots may have none, as there is no requirement for a instrument candidate to log actual time in the clouds. Which means that, although you satisfied the FAA requirements for the certificate, you may not have the proficiency or the confidence you’d like to have when the weather dips below VFR. That’s where the IMC Club comes in. The membership-based non-profit organization focuses on instrument-rated pilots and flight instructors, with a network of chapters across the nation.
The club was started in 2009 by CFI Radek Wyrzykowski. Wyrzykowski, who lives in the northeast United States where the weather can turn quickly, has logged more than 4,500 hours dual given. He was the chief flight instructor for Horizon Aviation from 2007 to 2009, and the chief flight instructor for Northampton Aeronautics from 2005 to 2007. He also is a correspondent to a Polish general aviation magazine, PILOT Club.
His passion for flying and sharing aviation experiences led to the formation of the club.
“Our main objective is to put instrument-rated pilots in contact with each other and get people flying in the clouds,” Wyrzykowski said. “I am a strong believer that experience and exercise are directly related to safety. One of the greatest challenges is finding an instrument flight instructor who has experience flying in the clouds. Lots of students receive instrument ratings from instructors who didn’t get a lot of IMC and did it exclusively under the hood.”
“We don’t want to wait for the FAA to initiate regulations,” he said. “We pilots should do it on our own.”
Among the things Wyrzykowski has learned in his years as an instructor is that often newly-minted instrument pilots are hesitant to get into actual IFR conditions on a non-training flight.
Wyrzykowski recounts an experience he had early in his career when he was flying in New England. He intended to make the flight VFR, but when the weather deteriorated, he had a decision to make.
“I was on the ground for about a day because I was intimidated at the idea of making an NDB approach into a non-towered airport,” he recalled. “Then I realized that the airplane doesn’t know when it is in the clouds. All I had to do what what I had trained for.”
That experience gave him greater respect for scenario-based training.
“It’s important, because when something happens outside the box, you have to know what to do,” he said. “We learn from experience, mostly our own, but occasionally from the stories of other pilots. We have our members fly with more experienced pilots and then debrief and do workshops and lectures with specific content for instrument pilots.”
The IMC Club has 29 chapters across the United States. “Some are very active, meeting once a week. Some meet once a month,” he said. “The most active chapter is in Las Vegas. Even though they don’t have much IMC there, they meet once week thinking that since they don’t have IMC on a regular basis it is very important to share experiences.”
All meetings are open to the public.
Being part of the club gives instrument pilots a social outlet as well, says Wyrzykowski, noting that time-building and flying by instruments can be isolating experiences. Along with IFR flying and monthly local chapter meetings, the IMC Club offers a website that provides an electronic experience base.
Pilots can enroll in IMC Club for free. Once they register, they are able to search for other pilots, for the purpose of advanced instruction or to ride along as a safety pilot. It also enables them to access an on-line library of questions and answers based on the experiences of other members, sort of a virtual hangar flying session.
During AirVenture Wyrzykowski said the organization is introducing a series of monthly pilot workshops known as The IFR Mastery Series, noting that this module was based and developed by the top IFR instructors in the country.
“It’s IMC Club 2.0, with pilot workshops with specific content,” he explained.
Each month the online workshop is followed by expert analysis and group discussion with IMC Club members nationwide.
Pilots who select a IMC Club Pro Supporting Membership, which is about $25 a month, gain full website access, as well as the right to participate in The IFR Mastery Series.
According to Master CFI Doug Stewart, the club’s director of education, the modules available to pro members are some of the best scenario-based training tools he’s seen.
“There is a lot of scenario training, asking the pilot what they would do here. What wouldn’t you do? There is a forums area online where the members can interact with other experienced pilots,” he said. “They really make you think and, best of all, it encourages pilots to go fly.”
For more information: IMCClubs.org