If you have gone through the testing and exams to become a private pilot, you will usually need to get your instrument rating next. Of course, this is if you wish to continue training. An instrument rating will certify you to fly with reduced visibility, even to the extent of not being able to see anything outside of your cockpit.
As you can imagine, achieving this rating is rather challenging. Ask most pilots and they may even tell you that acquiring the instrument rating is more challenging than getting your actual private pilot’s license.
Although challenging, it is one of the most rewarding ratings as it makes you a far better pilot. Safety is always paramount as a pilot and with the process of getting an instrument rating, an individual will become a much safer one.
With this daunting rating comes many questions with one of the most common being “how many hours do you need for an instrument rating?” Well, to become an instrument-rated pilot, you will require 40 hours of simulated or actual IFR (instrument flight rules) conditions. How long this takes can depend on how often you can fly. If each training flight is 2 hours long, it should take 20 training flights but if you only go a couple of times a week, it could take 2 and a half months to complete.
The more often you can train, the quicker you should get an instrument rating.
Can a private pilot fly IFR?
If you’re wondering what the acronym IFR stands for, it means Instrument Flight Rules. This allows pilots who are Instrument Rated (IR) to operate an aircraft by only relying on instruments in the cockpit. This is especially important when visibility is poor on flights.
Once a pilot holds a private pilot’s license (PPL), their next step is usually to be instrument rated. However, private pilots can only fly IVR once they have achieved their instrument rating. This rating impacts many aspects of flying such as flight planning, taking off, landing, navigation, flight following, weather tracking, and radar.
FAA guidelines for IFR are in place to protect pilots from potential accidents that can be caused in conditions with poor visibility. IFR pilots have to rely on Air Traffic Control (ATC) for direct instructions whether it’s before a flight or during navigation. Pilots file IFR flight plans and then rely solely on their instruments while in the air.
Over half of private pilots become instrument rated as IFR flights offer an array of advantages. A pilot’s level of skill is increased so IFR pilots can always be two steps ahead for a safer flying experience. IFR pilots can analyze weather conditions more thoroughly and have a greater awareness of what to do next.
Though private pilots don’t need to become instrument rated, they have to fly IFR. The benefits are almost endless.
How do I get an IFR rating?
As we have mentioned, you will have to obtain an instrument rating before flying IFR. To get to this point, a pilot has usually had years of experience and already achieved their private pilot’s license.
There are some basic requirements and flight procedures to fly IFR first. These are:
- The correct fuel requirements
- VOR equipment check
- IFR flight plan and pre-flight preparation
- IFR take-off and landing (for visibility limitations)
- IFR flight plan filed with ATC
- IFR flight levels, altitudes, and cruising speeds
- Flight path clearances
- Minimum altitudes and distances for IFR operations
- IFR malfunction reporting when in controlled airspace
- IFR communications and communication failures
- Special air space general operating procedures
- Once the flight is completed, a closing flight plan
When flying under IFR conditions, you will have to operate your aircraft with only your instruments, your ears, and your basic instincts. You will have to rely on Air Traffic Control for instructions and communications too. Mainly, your total reliance is on your instruments for navigation, weather, and more important information.
You will have to remain calm and very focused during the flight as you may have to fly a plane with absolute zero visibility.
To achieve an IFR rating, you will often train in a flight simulator and sometimes in an aircraft alongside a certified flight instrument instructor. The training will come down to a final written exam and check-ride.
Should I get IFR rated?
There are many reasons to fly IFR but you must become instrument rated to do so. If you want to be a better, safer pilot, then, yes, you should get IFR rated.
No pilot dreams of flying with zero visibility but, at some point, most encounter a situation where the weather unexpectedly changes or they have to fly at night. Without this training, they are unable to fly in such conditions. Instrument training for IFR flying makes the whole flying experience safer for the pilot and, of course, their passengers.
If a pilot comes across deteriorating weather, it is always comforting to know that they can rely on their instruments to guide them. This can prevent accidents and possible disasters caused by loss of control.
IFR pilots are ace navigators, communicators, and efficiently manage their workload. IFR flying should be the goal for most private pilots if they want to learn certain ways of navigating.
You can become a better communicator because you copy and comply with clearances from the beginning as you work with Air Traffic Control. You will learn the standardized ATC language that is foreign to Visual Flight Rules (VFR) pilots. You will learn to remain calm whatever the situation and listen for specifics from ATC.
If you want to become the best pilot you can be, you should fly IFR. If you want to pursue an advanced pilot certification, IFR flying has to be done.
How do you become an instrument rated pilot?
There are numerous ways to become an instrument-rated pilot. The reason you want the rating in the first place could have an effect on your training method you opt for.
If you choose to enroll in a highly regimented FAR Part 141 flight school, a full-time or part-time instructor could help you at your local airport. If you wish to do an accelerated course, you could have intense training in your own aircraft. However, other instructors usually require you to travel to their location. This can then take around 10 to 12 days.
To apply for an instrument rating, a pilot must:
- Hold a current private pilot certificate or concurrently be applying for a private pilot license with an aircraft, helicopter, or powered-lift rating that is appropriate to the sought instrument rating
- Read, speak, and write the English language and understand it easily
A pilot must have logged in:
- 50 hours or more of cross-country flight time as a pilot in command and at least 10 of these hours has to be in an aircraft for an instrument-airplane rating
- 40 hours of actual or simulated instrument time
- 15 hours or more of instrument flight training from an authorized instructor in an airplane category for your sought after instrument rating
How much does it cost to get an IFR rating?
To achieve a pilot instrument rating and then pay for IFR training, it is estimated that the standard costs can be from $7,000 to $10,000 and over. If you opt for an accelerated course, you will be looking to pay $5,000 to $7,200.
It may sound like a lot of money but if you are not IFR rated, come a cloudy day or a time with bad visibility, you are grounded. Think of it like that and the extra cost is worth it.