Total immersion flight training works. Studies show that students who totally immerse themselves in their flight school environment learn both the knowledge and the physical skills they need efficiently and effectively over a relatively short period of time.
Total immersion ground training is easy. The problem is, total immersion flight training is hard to come upon. In Charleston, South Carolina, however, Mike McCurdy has a system that just works. McCurdy offers his students the chance for earning an instrument rating in one week, but he won’t take raw recruits for his IFR6 program. Incoming students need at least the FAA Instrument Rating Knowledge Test passed and 10 hours of instrument flight instruction, along with 40 hours of pilot-in-command cross-country time. They also need 50 hours logged in the airplane they want to fly in (McCurdy encourages them to bring their own, and will even send a flight instructor to the student to help them fly it to Charleston Air Force Base/International Airport—bonus—you get to log that cross-country as IFR flight instruction). Finally, IFR6’s pricing is simple: all-inclusive. Even the check ride is priced into the course.
Students must be committed to learning without distraction. What they get in return is extremely efficient learning. The IFR6 program typically takes one week, and starts with the assignment of one dedicated flight instructor per student. It works because the flight instructor is as immersed in the student as the student is in the program. The Redbird flight simulator is also key. Students learn all the mechanics and acquire muscle memory in the sim. Flying the airplane is just practicing what they’ve learned. And yes, they do log actual IFR.
“I feel our process is what sets us apart and generates so many IFR pilots every year,” explained McCurdy. Graduates of the program agree.
“It was like drinking out of a firehose,” said Dean Dunford. “So much work, and yet I never felt rushed,” he continued. “We would work in the simulator, then take a mini-break, and out to the airplane for a flight, and then back to the simulator. Whatever it takes to get you flying right,” he said. “They ask a lot of their clients coming through the program, but I flew home IFR and I have flown IFR nearly every flight since.”
Adam Watson brought his wife with him for moral support. It helped him focus, he said. Watson had tried traditional, two-to-three-times-a-week training for the instrument rating. Two years later he had seen minimal progress. One week after enrolling in IFR6, he and his wife celebrated his fresh instrument rating. Watson now flies in Alaska, where he says he puts his skills to use constantly.
“I liked that you pay one price up front, so you’re not sitting there studying and racking up a bill,” he said. “We worked eight to 10 hours a day and I was exhausted, but it was worth it.” In his mind, total immersion is the only way to go.