What Is an Instrument Rating?
An Instrument Rating (IR) is a pilot rating earned through intensive training focused on flying solely by reference to instruments. It is arguably one of the most valuable ratings you can add to your pilot certificate and is a fun and challenging discipline of flight training. A well-trained and proficient instrument pilot can fly an airplane from point A to point B without ever having to look out the window except for takeoff and landing; it is truly a remarkable skill.
For many new pilots, the training provided in the instrument rating is the first glimpse at how theNational Airspace System, radar and air traffic control works. All important concepts as you will now be qualified to fly in the same airspace that the turbine airplanes. For others, it is usually the first time they’ve been allowed to enter the clouds or fly on a dark and stormy night, known as flying in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) on an Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) flight plan.
Why Should I Get My Instrument Rating?
There are several reasons why a pilot might want to earn an instrument rating on their pilot certificate, including;
- The first is safety. Even if a pilot never intends to fly in the clouds or conditions outside of visual flight rules (VFR), the instrument rating provides an extra layer of safety just in case things do not go as planned during a flight. Not only will the pilot understand more about the weather and what to expect, if the situation really became dire and their only solution was to fly through the clouds, they could safely do so in an aircraft with IFR capabilities.
- A pilot may also opt to get an instrument rating if they want to become a flight instructor.
- Fly as a commercial airline pilot. While it is possible to earn a commercial certificate without obtaining an instrument rating, doing so limits the types of jobs and flying you can do with your commercial certificate.
What Does IFR Mean?
IFR stands for Instrument Flight Rules and without an instrument rating, pilots may not operate under IFR. Instrument Flight Rules essentially means:
You can file an instrument flight (evaluate weather conditions)
You can efficiently move through areas of differing airspace
You do not have to adhere to any specific weather requirements
For pilots that fly longer distances, this is a great tool, as it generally results in a significantly more efficient flight while likely receiving assistance from air traffic control along the way as an additional set of eyes on the air traffic and weather around you. Even if a pilot never intends to fly in actual Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC), flying on an instrument flight plan will generally shorten flight times and increase safety.
What is the difference in VFR and IFR?
How Long Does It Take to Earn an Instrument Rating?
The time frame for a full-time student pilot with no experience to earn their Private Pilot Certificate is two months. Adding on an Instrument Rating will take an additional six weeks.
What Are the Eligibility Requirements For an Instrument Rating?
Read, speak, write and understand the English language
Hold at least a current private pilot certificate, or apply for a private pilot certificate along with their instrument rating
Receive and log ground training from an authorized instructor or accomplish a home study course for the aeronautical knowledge required for the rating
Receive an endorsement from an authorized instructor to take, and pass, the instrument ratingknowledge test
Receive and log the required flight training
Reference 14 CFR §61.65 for the entire list of eligibility requirements.
Candidates for an instrument rating will learn a wide array of knowledge in regards to the rating itself and aviation in general, providing a deeper level of understanding of the dynamics of flight.
Instrument Rating Training Includes:
- Flight Planning and Filing Related to IFR
- Navigation — Departure, En Route, and Arrival Operations for IFR
- Airplane Systems Related to IFR Operations
- Instrument Flight Deck Check
- Air Traffic Control Clearances and Procedures
- Instrument Approach Procedures — Non-precision, Precision, Missed, Circling and Landing
- Emergency Operations Related to IFR
- Weather Information
In addition, you must meet the following federal regulations regarding aeronautical flight experience requirements to earn an Instrument Rating.
Instrument Rating Requirements
- Cross-Country PIC 50 Hours
- Instrument Time (Actual or Simulated) 40 Hours
- Flight Time From Authorized Instructor 15 Hours
- Cross-Country Flight 250 Nautical Miles
- With Specific Instrument Requirements to Complete the Flight
A good question to ask yourself before you start instrument training is, why do you want this rating? The answers can usually be grouped into three areas. One common answer is that it’s a good thing to have in your pocket just in case you need it. Next is that it’s just another important step to a career in aviation. The third reason is that you want to increase the productivity of your personal or business flying.
There are different ways to obtain training for your instrument rating, and the reason you want the rating may have an effect on the training method that you choose. Should you enroll in a highly regimented FAR Part 141 school? Perhaps a full-time or part-time instructor at your local airport could do the job. Then, there are the accelerated courses. Some of these come to your location and provide intense training in your own airplane. Others require that you travel to their location. These accelerated courses usually have you finished up in 10 to 12 days. What’s the best? That depends on you. The articles included below will provide information to help you decide.
The instrument rating requirements, as specified in 14 CFR 61.65, are summarized here:
A person who applies for an instrument rating must:
- Hold at least a current private pilot certificate or be concurrently applying for a private pilot certificate with an airplane, helicopter, or powered-lift rating appropriate to the instrument rating sought.
- Be able to read, speak, write, and understand the English language.
You must have logged the following:
- At least 50 hours of cross-country flight time as pilot in command. At least 10 of these hours must be in airplanes for an instrument-airplane rating.
- A total of 40 hours of actual or simulated instrument time on the areas of operation listed in 61.65(c).
- At least 15 hours of instrument flight training from an authorized instructor in the aircraft category for the instrument rating sought.
For instrument-airplane rating, instrument training on cross-country flight procedures that includes at least one cross-country flight in an airplane that is performed under instrument flight rules. This flight must consist of:
- A distance of at least 250 nm along airways or ATC-directed routing.
- An instrument approach at each airport.
- Three different kinds of approaches with the use of navigation systems (Example: ILS, VOR, GPS, etc).
- At least 3 hours of instrument training that is appropriate to the instrument rating sought from an authorized instructor in preparation for the checkride within two calendar months before the examination date.Flight Training
- Receive and log flight training from an authorized instructor in an aircraft, flight simulator, or flight training device that represents the aircraft appropriate to the instrument rating sought on the areas of operation listed in 61.65(c).
- Receive a logbook or training record endorsement from an authorized instructor certifying that you are prepared to take the required practical test.