By: Jason Blair
As I give checkrides, especially instrument checkrides, I regularly ask about how pilots can keep current for instrument flight rules (IFR) operations. I typically get good answers that detail the number of procedures that a pilot must complete within the first six months, what they can do for currency after that, and when they must complete an instrument proficiency check (IPC) with an instructor or examiner (that is, when they've fallen out of currency for more than a year).
But when I follow this up by asking what they'd have to do on an IPC, I get widely variable answers to a simple, but important, question. Pilots who are instrument rated should know what they must do, and so, too, should instrument instructors understand what they must ask these pilots to demonstrate during an IPC. Both start with knowing where to find that information, and most pilots (and many instructors) will head to the FARs to see what must be completed; unfortunately, they won't find this information there.
The requirements for an IPC are listed only in the instrument practical test standards (PTS). On page 1-vii, you'll find the rating task table. This table is most commonly used to determine what areas of the practical tests must be demonstrated on a particular test (such as an Instrument Airplane-IA or Instrument Helicopter-IH). However, the last column in the matrix is labeled "IPC."
Each area of operation that must be demonstrated can be found by looking at the letter designation, then referring to the content area of the PTS document, but the gist is this: In most cases, an IPC will include three approaches (one precision and two-non precision), tracking, and holding operations.
When pilots don't know what's required on the IPC, or at least how to find out, I find it hard to consider them knowledgeable of the responsibilities that come with being an instrument pilot. Personally, I don't consider this a "bust" question on an initial instrument-rating practical test, provided the applicant is strong in the rest of their knowledge base, but I think it should be for an instrument-instructor applicant. It shows a lack of knowledge of what they must require of customers before signing them off to fly alone in the clouds.
The take-away is that not all reference material is in the FARs. This can be an example to use with your students, fellow pilots, and peer instructors to show that the FAA produces many reference guides that are available to an instructor. Proficiency requires us to know how to use all of them, too.
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