Brand-new instrument rating course student meets a lot of problems after feeling rather confident flying VFR. For example, very quick transitioning to visual approach after the words ‘runway in sight’ (when you should remove your hood and really see the runway), or calculating the optimal speed for a stabilized approach, or the stabilized approach itself. But probably the most challenging part for me was communication with ATC.
We are flying mainly in ‘Jacksonville Appoach’ area. At first, the word ‘approach’ itself is a little confusing after Europe when we’re considering some general area, but that is just a sidenote. The problem is that the controller talks way too fast and does not follow the standard ICAO phraseology. That FAA world is really different. And if I am almost OK with male controllers, I really have large problems with some lady: she speaks even faster, and her high-pitch voice challenges me even more. Of course, it becomes better with practice, but initially, especially under some pressure because of other new factors, it was pretty hard.
I have to learn more phraseology too. For example, I’ve never heard ‘Cleared for the options’ before. And again, everything comes with more experience.
We’re flying approaches in D airspace, not very busy, but it depends on time of the day. For example, once we had a holding clearance with EFC in 1 hour, i. e. in a worst case we should fly holding patterns for one hour. Fortunately in practice we asked for a VOR approach after about 10 min and got a clearance.
I strongly advice to fly in the US at least for the radio communications practice. Initially it can be challenging even for native speakers. ATC speaks fast, you should understand and comply quicker since you are usually not alone at the airspace. At the private level it does not matter a lot, but for IR it really helps to gain more experience and confidence. Moreover, there are much more controlled airports here. For example, we have at least 5 options in less than 1 hour of flight, all without landing or approach fees. Additionally, there are official GPS approach charts even for small uncontrolled airports.
One piece of advice for prospective IR students, especially non-native speakers: practice ATC. Listen liveATC, watch youtube videos, repeat phrases, try to capture the situation in the air. Probably even try to sketch aircrafts positions from some liveATC channel.