Sorry. Despite the title of this post, there is no easy way. It's a challenging process. In fact, getting my instrument ticket was one of the most difficult accomplishments of my life. And it took about three years. One issue is that there is an infinite amount of information to learn if you want to "know it all:" Weather, regulations, charts, safety, procedures, etc, etc, etc... and, oh yea, how to fly the plane. When I finally finished, I looked back could see what would have been a much more direct path to the finish line because the expectations I put on myself were somewhat impractical. I would like to share that faster, simpler path with you.
Let me start by saying that I'm not a CFII. So this is nothing more than my personal opinion based on my experience. But I hope it is helpful for you as well.
First, let's review what is needed for an airplane instrument rating under Part 61:
Paraphrased so it is digestible (see FAR 61.65 for the exact wording/requirements), here is your simplified checklist:
Completing this checklist can be overwhelming. Here's the efficient, step-by-step process I wish I had before I started:
Step 1: LOG hood time and clean up your logbook
Start now! Keep a hood in the plane and put it on any time that you are flying with an appropriately rated safety pilot. Start early and log every minute you can. Seriously.
Also, take a look at Form 8710. You will have to fill that out prior to your check ride. There is a ridiculous amount of information needed that is difficult to calculate from your logbook entries. My recommendation is to get your logbook electronic somehow, and be sure you have all of the columns listed in the 8710 so you can fill out the form. You don't need this distraction the night before your checkride. You need to be studying. Get this done. Start today and chip away at it over time.
Step 2: wrap up your cross country hours
Be smart. If you're flying around on the weekends, try to hit that airport a couple of more minutes away so you can count the flight as a cross-country.
#1 and #2 are difficult to quickly "knock out" if you're ready to test. So start those ASAP!
Step 3: Pass the written.
Here's how to do it:
a) Watch the King Schools instrument videos. Pay attention when you watch them and watch them again and again until you "get it." Yes, I know they are dated. But I've watched several other training videos that are newer and my opinion is that the King's program is the best for test prep.
b) When you're finished with the King videos, buy the Sheppard Air Instrument Prep and follow their instructions. That will narrow down what seems to be an infinite amount of information to a more reasonable amount that will actually fit in your head.
c) Now, go pass the written. Get it over with.
One thing to note here, is that I have not said a word yet about flying with a CFII. Let me hop on my soap box for a minute. I think you should respect your instructor's time and be prepared ahead of time by doing your homework. If your CFII is teaching you what is in the book, you're being lazy and inefficient. Don't do that. Learn what you can on your own and go to your CFII with questions. Pass your written so you have some idea what you're doing. Then go fly.
Step 4: Start flying with a CFII
Start immediately after passing your written and don't stop. All of that information from #3 will start draining from your head the minute you leave the exam room. Don't let that happen. Start using what you learned and keep your momentum.
Here are some initial thoughts on flying:
Your Instructor: Get someone that will challenge you and be sure you have good chemistry. This person is going to teach you skills on which your life will some day depend. If you're not comfortable with your instructor, find a new one ASAP because switching later will cost you more time and money.
Your Airplane: I think the right airplane is a C172 with a Garmin GNS430/530 unless you are on a professional route. Then a G1000 is probably more appropriate. Also a complex, high performance airplane wouldn't be my first choice because you will already have your hands (and head) full. And, you could use time to think and a 172 isn't going anywhere quickly. That's good while you're learning.
Step 5: Accumulate hours
Fly an hour with your CFII, practice hours-on-end using a flight sim like FSX or XPlane, then go practice with a safety pilot. Rinse and repeat. Just remember that the sim is free! Use it. Electrons cost a hell of a lot less than 100LL + airplane + instructor.
By the way, you need the sim to be as realistic as possible. For instrument training, this really means the equipment. Be sure the equipment is as close as possible to what is actually in your plane. We had a GNS430, and my opinion the 430 interface is absolutely horrible. To help, I bought a 430 panel for XPlane from RealSimGear. You can run a MUCH more accurate GNS430 simulator with that equipment that way the menus match the real thing. That's what you need. You also manipulate the GPS with real knobs, not a frickin' mouse. Anyway, I love it. Great investment. Highly recommended.
Step 6: Prepare for the check ride
Ok, crunch time! It should be obvious when you're ready for the flight portion of the test, but now you need to get a TON of information in your head at once for the oral. Here's what I recommend:
a) Download, print, and study the ACS. It is free on the FAAs website. There's no excuse for not familiar with this document when you show up for your checkride. Read it. Study it. Know what to expect!
b) Buy the book "Instrument Pilot Oral Exam Guide by Michael D. Hayes." No brainer here. Read it cover to cover then...
c) Buy 200 note cards and start going page by page through the Oral Exam Guide and start filling them out. Pay particular attention to items that are mentioned in the ACS.
d) Divide your note cards into piles. "Easy, Hard, and 'have to know per ACS'" Study them every day in the obvious order. Trust me on this one. I'm the last person you will see carrying around note cards and my family was shocked. But the cards were the most valuable thing I had when preparing. And frankly, I learned ten-times more while making the cards using the book than I did when I read the book. Don't skip the cards!
e) Finally, buy and binge watch the Real-World-IFR course from PilotWorkshops. They are a TON of help in the oral because they really teach you how to think, not just regurgitate the regulations. If you want to impress the examiner, this is the icing on the cake. Crazy good stuff and a fantastic educational format.
Step 7: Schedule the checkride
Let's face it, nothing gets finished without a deadline. So when you think you're about ready to test, find a DPE and get it scheduled a month or so in advance. That will force you to get serious and consider it crunch time.
Step 8: Go do it
Good luck. And don't get all freaked out if you make a mistake during the flight. Noone is perfect. Just relax, fly through any mistakes, and keep on keepin' on!
I hope all of this is helpful. If so, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org ! I would love to hear from you. And don't forget to buy a DynaVibe before you leave the site! Ok, that was shameless...