Instrument Rating

What is an instrument rating and why do you need it?

An Instrument Rating can be added to a Private Pilot or Commercial Pilot Certificate and refers to the qualifications that a pilot must have in order to fly IFR (under Instrument Flight Rules). For most pilots, the most significant value of flying under IFR is the ability to fly in IMC conditions (instrument meteorological conditions, such as through clouds). When flying IMC you are relying solely on the flight instruments as opposed to visual references when flying VFR. You will receive training on IFR regulations, the air traffic control system, IFR navigation for enroute and instrument approach procedures, weather, and decision making skills. Having a instrument rating will enable you as the pilot to legally and safely operate a properly equipped aircraft in IMC. If you plan on moving on to fly bigger and faster aircraft an instrument rating is a must. All flights operating in Class A airspace (above 18,000 ft.) must be conducted under IFR, thus any pilot who plans to operate an aircraft capable of flying above 18,000 feet, such as a turbo-prop, light jet, or airliner will definitely need to have an instrument rating. Even if you don’t ever plan on moving on to fly bigger aircraft having an instrument rating will make you a safer, better equipped pilot and if you own your own plane you can even save up to 25% on insurance costs.


Instrument Pilot Requirements

  • 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.
  • 70% or better score on instrument pilot knowledge test

Minimum Aeronautical Experience

  • 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.
  • 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.

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).

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