Straight and Level IFR Scan



An instrument student asked me how fast to scan the instrument for straight and level flight. It was a good question. I took a best guess of an answer (~10 seconds per scanning cycle in straight and level flight) and though that seems about right, it also raises a bunch of other questions.

Having a scanning pattern and rhythm doesn’t only help a beginning instrument student, but can also help kick-start our scan when we are transitioning into IMC. Until our subconscious mind takes over, we can use a method to get our scan going.

Jason Miller of The Finer Points has a video where he suggests a radial scan pattern on the beat of ‘Staying Alive’, which at ~96 beats per minute provides a nice, deliberate pace of scanning. The pattern Jason suggest may work for you, but I thought it could be improved upon in two ways:

  1. I would like to spend more time on the attitude indicator – not just observing its status, but also its movement.
  2. I like to look at some instruments in logical groups.

As you will see, your look away from the attitude indicator is not much more than a glance. Intimidating at first, perhaps. But as you practice this, you will find that not much more than a glance is required to get the information you need to adjust your attitude.

Once you progress with instrument training, you may only need a few minutes of following this rhythm before your sub-conscience takes over. But having a way to get yourself started on an effective scan may prevent embarrassing deviations or worse when you just enter actual or simulated IMC.

What techniques are you using to get your scan started?

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