A lot of the following tips and tricks come from years of flying in the IFR system and also from working with some outstanding instructors. Some of them are technique, some are technical, and some just make your life easier. This is by no means a comprehensive list, and material will be added to it on a continuing basis.

Picking up a VFR squawk code
If you are departing from a towered field, you can request ground to obtain a squawk code for either VFR flight following or practice approaches in the area. By doing this approach control has a heads-up that you are going to be popping up on their screen and be better prepared to handle your request.

Get the weather ahead of time
When on an IFR flight plan, get the weather ahead of time. If you know you will shortly be switched from a center frequency to approach control, have the weather information at your destination ahead of time. That way when you check in with approach, you can let them know you already have the weather at your destination. It cuts down on frequency congestion to do it this way, since the controller would otherwise have to ask you to get the weather.

Ask to leave the frequency
Controllers generally do not mind if you request a frequency change in order to get the weather at your destination. They would rather you do this than risk missing calls because you are trying to listen to two frequencies at the same time. So just ask. If they don't want you to leave the frequency, they will tell you so. This same bit of advice also applies to checkrides. If you don't get an approach set up because you are trying through multiple repetitions to get the weather, it's not going to really impress the examiner.

Do you really know how to use an HSI?
I wrote a long article in my online journal on using the HSI. It is really a rather amazing instrument if you really know how to effectively use it to its maximum advantage. Check it out at Using an HSI. You'll probably learn a trick or two you never knew about the HSI.

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