You finally achieved your private pilot license, so what’s next? This all depends on what your flying goals are. If you are pursuing a professional career as a pilot or just want the ability and flexibility to fly through clouds and weather then your next step is an instrument rating!
Obtaining an instrument rating is a serious notch to any pilot’s belt. It unlocks a whole new type of flying and is a big milestone for anyone trying to be a pilot for hire.
In this article, we will hit the most important topics dealing with the instrument rating. If you had questions, we hope to answer them with this article! Let’s get started.
What Is An Instrument Rating?
An instrument rating refers to the rating or qualification a pilot earns that allows them to fly under instrument flight rules. This qualification requires training on flying while exclusively referencing flight instruments to aviate and navigate.
In plain words, it allows you to fly through clouds and other weather phenomena which is not allowed when flying under visual flight rules (VFR). You are able to do this since the lack of visual cues from looking outside is compensated for by using the instruments provided by the aircraft.
What Can A Pilot Do With An Instrument Rating
When operating as a recreational pilot, you as the pilot must operate within the following guidelines of the recreational pilot certificate:
Privileges For Recreational Pilots
Eligibility For Pilot Instrument Rating
In order to be eligible for a recreational pilot certificate you 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. If the applicant is unable to meet any of these requirements due to a medical condition, the Administrator may place such operating limitations on the applicant’s pilot certificate as are necessary for the safe operation of the aircraft
- Pass the required knowledge test
- Pass the required practical test
How Much Does An Instrument Rating Cost?
On average, it will cost roughly $9,000 to get an instrument rating. This is the average and the range varies between 7K – 13K for the rating.
There are ways to lower this cost which may involve using the simulator, flying consistently, and finding cheaper rates for ground/flight school.
It is important to note that the minimum number of hours isn’t necessarily the time that a student pilot would receive their certificate. Everyone works at their own pace, but if it takes more hours to achieve it, it will end up costing more.
What are other factors that go into this number?
- Flight Instruction: Flight instruction cost is dependent on your area and the experience of the instructor. A flight school in Richmond, VA will have different rates than Miami, FL. You can expect to pay anywhere from $30-$60 per hour for the instructor.
- Airplane Rental: Similar to the instruction, it varies on location and aircraft type. You also have to consider fuel. You can expect around $120 per hour.
- Supplies and Gear: Most flying schools will offer student headsets and supplies for flying, but the caveat to using the school’s gear is that it probably will not be the best or the cleanest. Especially during covid times, consider getting your own gear and supplies.
- Training Materials & Exam Fees: You will have to take courses and get books to pass the knowledge exam. This could be in the ballpark of $300-$600 depending on what courses you go for. Make sure to check them all out and review them before making the choice. The most expensive isn’t necessarily the best and vice versa
- Here is a list of 7 awesome resources for student pilots that are free! Check it out below
Top 7 Free Reading Material For Any Pilot
What Are The Training Requirements to Receive An Instrument Rating?
The training requirements for an instrument rating are as follows:
- 50 hours of cross-country flight time as pilot in command, of which 10 hours must have been in an airplane; and
- Forty hours of actual or simulated instrument time of which 15 hours must have been received from an authorized instructor who holds an instrument-airplane rating, and the instrument time includes:
- Three hours of instrument flight training from an authorized instructor in an airplane that is appropriate to the instrument-airplane rating within 2 calendar months before the date of the practical test; and
- Instrument flight training on cross country flight procedures, including one cross country flight in an airplane with an authorized instructor, that is performed under instrument flight rules, when a flight plan has been filed with an air traffic control facility, and that involves—
- A flight of 250 nautical miles along airways or by directed routing from an air traffic control facility;
- An instrument approach at each airport; and
- Three different kinds of approaches with the use of navigation systems.
You must pass a knowledge test on the applicable aeronautical knowledge (more later on in the article)
You must pass a practical test on the applicable areas of operation (More below)
Can I Use A Simulator For An Instrument Rating?
Yes, but there are limits and regulations on how many hours can count towards meeting the aeronautical experience requirement.
If the instrument time was provided by an authorized instructor in a full flight simulator or flight training device:
- A maximum of 30 hours may be performed in that full flight simulator or flight training device or
- A maximum of 20 hours may be performed in that full flight simulator or flight training device if the instrument time was not completed in accordance with part 142 of the FAA’s regulations
A maximum of 10 hours of instrument time received in a basic aviation training device or a maximum of 20 hours of instrument time received in an advanced aviation training device may be credited for the instrument time requirements of this section if
- The device is approved and authorized by the FAA;
- An authorized instructor provides the instrument time in the device; and
- The FAA approved the instrument training and instrument tasks performed in the device.
Tests For An Instrument Rating
Instrument Rating Knowledge Test
Before you can take the knowledge test required to receive your instrument rating, you must obtain a logbook endorsement from the instructor you trained with. It can also be an instructor who reviewed and evaluated your home-study course on the outlined aeronautical knowledge.
To apply for an instrument rating, you must receive and log ground training from an authorized instructor or complete a home-study course on the following aeronautical knowledge areas:
(1) Federal Aviation Regulations that apply to flight operations under IFR;
(2) Appropriate information that applies to flight operations under IFR in the “Aeronautical Information Manual;”
(3) Air traffic control system and procedures for instrument flight operations;
(4) IFR navigation and approaches by use of navigation systems;
(5) Use of IFR en route and instrument approach procedure charts;
(6) 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;
(7) Safe and efficient operation of aircraft under instrument flight rules and conditions;
(8) Recognition of critical weather situations and windshear avoidance;
(9) Aeronautical decision making and judgment; and
(10) Crew resource management, including crew communication and coordination.
Instrument Rating Practical Test
Before you can take the practical test required to receive your instrument rating, you must obtain a logbook endorsement from the instructor you trained with. This endorsement certifies that you meet the applicable aeronautical knowledge and experience requirements and are prepared for the practical test.
A person who applies for an instrument rating must receive and log training from an authorized instructor in an aircraft, or in a full flight simulator or flight training device
(1) Preflight preparation;
(2) Preflight procedures;
(3) Air traffic control clearances and procedures;
(4) Flight by reference to instruments;
(5) Navigation systems;
(6) Instrument approach procedures;
(7) Emergency operations; and
(8) Postflight procedures.
The biggest thing they are looking for on practical tests or check rides is that you operate the aircraft safely and effectively. The evaluator does not expect perfection. They will look for mistakes and if you recognize the mistakes and whether or not you react accordingly. Pilots with thousands of hours make mistakes. A student with 30 hours is not expected to be Bob Hoover.
Should I Get An Instrument Rating?
Here is everyone’s favorite answer, wait for it…… It depends!
If you are someone who is looking to take their flying to the next level then yes. If you want to learn how to fly while only looking inside of the cockpit and not outside, then absolutely. If you are trying to become a professional pilot such as an airline pilot then absolutely.
If you are just trying to fly here and there and on nice VMC days, then it may be overkill and it would be better to save your money for other priorities.
We hope this helps!