Every pilot who wants to fly under instrument flight rules must know the full set of IFR required equipment before they take flight.

Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to remember what is required, but you should also know about IFR inspection requirements and a couple of the intricacies of what counts as eligible navigation and communication equipment.

What Equipment Is Required for IFR Flight?

There are several items of equipment that your aircraft must be equipped with every time you fly under IFR conditions.

The best way to remember what equipment is required for IFR flight is through a very useful, easy to remember acronym.

IFR Required Equipment Acronym

Remember the term “GRABCARD”, and you will never forget what IFR equipment is required.

  • Generator or alternator
  • Rate of Turn Indicator
  • Attitude Indicator
  • Ball (inclinometer)
  • Clock (second-hand sweep or digital)
  • Altimeter (pressure sensitive)
  • Radio/Navigation (appropriate for flight)
  • Directional Gyro/Heading Indicator

Okay, it’s cheating slightly because you have to remember alternator along with generator, and navigation along with radio, but GARABCARND doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.

IFR Required Navigation and Communication Equipment

FAR 91.205 states that IFR required navigation and communication equipment consists of equipment that is “suitable for the route to be flown.”

This can be GPS or navigation equipment that includes VOR or DME/DME/IRU capability

Can You Fly IFR Without GPS?

Yes, you can fly IFR without GPS. AIM 1-1-17 states that your aircraft “must be equipped with an alternate approved and operational means of navigation.” VOR or DME/DME/IRU capability all qualify.

Can You Fly IFR Without VOR?

Yes, according to AIM 1-1-17 you can fly IFR without VOR – just as long as you have other approved means of navigation that are appropriate for flight. If you don’t, VOR is required.

Why You Need Each Piece of IFR Equipment

  • Generator or Alternator: to provide electrical power
  • Rate of Turn Indicator: to indicate the aircraft is turning at the standard rate
  • Attitude Indicator: to inform the orientation of the aircraft relative to the horizon, as under IFR conditions you can’t refer to the actual horizon
  • Ball: for the inclinometer, part of the turn and bank indicator or turn coordinator
  • Clock: for flight planning and fuel consumption calculations
  • Altimeter: to maintain the desired or assigned altitude
  • Radios/Navigation: for communications and navigation
  • Directional Gyro or Heading Indicator: to determine aircraft direction

IFR Equipment Inspection Requirements

FAR 91.411 states that IFR aircraft must have each altimeter, encoder, and static system inspected and certified every 24 months.

The altimeter is tested to ensure the minimum requirements for accuracy and repeatability are met.

The encoder is tested against the primary altimeter and adjusted to make sure of data correspondence.

As leaks in the static system can cause the altitude reporting equipment to be way off in accuracy, a static system leak check is performed.

It’s very important that you don’t overlook the word “each”. Every single piece of equipment that falls under one of these three must be inspected and certified.

Only the manufacturer of the aircraft, a certificated repair station, or a certificated mechanic with an airframe rating can perform these tests.

Under FAR 91.413, if applicable, every 24 months an aircraft must have its transponder tested and certified too.