This article explains how to add an instrument rating to your private pilot or commercial pilot certificate.
The instrument rating is one of the most useful, and difficult, ratings to get after you have your private pilot certificate. Many people also say that it makes you a much better pilot. When you can’t see outside because it is cloudy, foggy or hazy, or if you want to fly higher than 18,000 feet, you need an instrument rating. If you live in an area with lots of bad weather and/or you want to make a lot of business trips where you absolutely have to be there, you’ll want this one. Every airline pilot is instrument rated.
You have to be at least 17 years old, speak English, pass a written exam and a flight exam. You will also need to already have a private pilot license (or at least be applying for it simultaneously) or a commercial pilot license.
Using a home study course and/or working with your flight instructor, you will have to learn about:
- Federal aviation regulations and Aeronautical Information Manual information related to IFR
- Air traffic control system and procedures for instrument flight operations
- IFR navigation and approaches by use of navigation systems, including VOR and GPS
- IFR en route and instrument approach procedure charts
- How to forecast weather from weather reports, forecasts and your own weather observations
- Safe and efficient operation of aircraft under instrument flight rules and conditions
- How to recognize critical weather situations and avoid wind shear
- Crew resource management, including crew communication and coordination
- How to make good decisions and exercise good judgment in flight
A flight instructor will fly with you to teach you:
- Preflight preparation, preflight and postflight procedures
- Air traffic control clearances and procedures
- How to fly just by looking at the instruments in the cockpit
- Navigation systems such as VORs and GPS
- Instrument approach procedures
- Properly handling emergency situations
You will need a minimum of 50 hours total cross country flight time acting as pilot in command, including 10 hours in an airplane or helicopter – as appropriate, 40 hours in real or simulated instrument conditions and 15 hours of flight instruction. (If you are pursuing your private pilot certificate simultaneously, you only need 45 total cross country hours in an airplane and 47 hours in a helicopter.)
The 15 hours of flight training need to include:
- for airplanes, a 250-nautical mile flight where you file a flight plan, use instrument approaches at each airport and three different kinds of approaches using navigation systems
- for helicopters, a 100-nautical mile flight where you file a flight plan, use instrument approaches at each airport and three different kinds of approaches using navigation systems
Also, 3 hours of the flight training must have been taken within 2 months of the flight exam.
There are also limitations on how many hours of training using a flight simulator or training device vs. in actual flight can be credited to the total hours required.
You’ll have to take a written test at an authorized flight test center and a flight test with an FAA examiner. The examiner will fly with you at your airport using the aircraft you’ve been training in.