Instrument Pilot Rating

An instrument rating qualifies a pilot to fly in the clouds, and when the weather is not favorable.

The FAA’s Instrument Flying Handbook outlines the Instrument Flight Rules, as “Rules and regulations established by the FAA to govern flight under conditions in which flight by outside visual reference is not safe. IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) flight depends upon flying by reference to instruments in the flight deck, and navigation is accomplished by reference to electronic signals.” Operating a flight in instrument conditions requires that a pilot must have filed an IFR flight plan. Flight instruments provide the necessary information commonly obtained by simply looking out the window during a VFR flight. Only a certified and current instrument rated pilot is permitted to file and fly an IFR flight plan.

Why should you get an instrument pilot rating?

Without a doubt, an instrument rating will make any pilot better. Instrument flight training develops a more comprehensive understanding of many topics introduced in private pilot training while adding instrument specific knowledge into the mix. Additionally, with an instrument rating, flight opportunities are no longer restricted to only flying on clear weather days. Instrument rated Pilots can file an IFR flight plan enabling flight through clouds and making flights through difficult airspace much easier.

What are the prerequisites?

Eligibility Requirements:

  • Hold a current private pilot certificate.
  • Be able to read, speak, write, and understand the English language.
  • Receive ground training on the Aeronautical Knowledge (listed below) and pass the FAA knowledge test with a score of 70% or greater.
  • Meet the FAA’s minimum Experience Requirements listed below
  • Pass a practical test consisting of an oral exam and an in-flight exam with a FAA Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE)

Aeronautical Knowledge

  • Federal Aviation Regulations that apply to flight operations under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR).
  • Appropriate information from the “Aeronautical Information Manual” that applies to flight operations under IFR.
  • Air traffic control system and procedures for instrument flight operations.
  • IFR navigation and approaches by use of navigation systems.
  • Use of IFR en-route and instrument approach procedure charts.
  • Procurement and use of aviation weather reports and forecasts and the elements of forecasting weather trends based on that information and personal observation of weather conditions.
  • Safe and efficient operation of aircraft under instrument flight rules and conditions.
  • Recognition of critical weather situations and windshear avoidance.
  • Aeronautical decision-making and judgment.
  • Cockpit resource management, including crew communication and coordination.

Flight Proficiency

  • Pre-flight preparation.
  • Pre-flight procedures.
  • Air traffic control clearances and procedures.
  • Flight by reference to instruments.
  • Navigation systems.
  • Instrument approach procedures.
  • Emergency operations.
  • Post-flight procedures.

Aeronautical Experience

  • 50 hours of cross country flight time as pilot in command, of which 10 hours must have been in an airplane.
  • 40 hours of actual or simulated instrument time of which 15 hours are flight training from an instrument instructor. Instrument time includes:
    • 3 hours of instrument flight training within 2 calendar months before the practical test.
    • One cross country flight in an airplane with an authorized instructor, that is performed under IFR that involves a flight of 250 nautical miles.

How much does it cost?

Assuming the candidate meets the minimum requirements, this is a ballpark of what to expect to pay during Instrument training:

  Minimum Western’s Average National Average (part 61)
  Hours Cost Hours Cost Hours Cost
Aircraft Rental (avg $125/hour) 20 $2,500 33 $4,125 61 $7,625
Simulator ($49/hour) 20 $980 20 $980 20 $980
Flight Instructor ($55/hour) 55 $3,025 65 $3,575 90 $5,400
Ground School   $350   $350   $350
Books and Supplies   $200   $200   $200
FAA Knowledge Test   $150   $150 1 $150
Airplane Rental for Check-ride 1.5 $188 1.5 $188 1.5 $188
FAA Examiner Fee for Check-ride   $600   $600   $600
Total   $7,993   $10,168   $15,493