If you want to be able to fly under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) in order to life certain restrictions like flying in any type of weather conditions and at any altitude, obtaining your instrument rating is an absolute must.

Let’s break down the requirements for an instrument rating, along with answering some of the most popular questions you probable have.

Instrument Rating Requirements

The requirements for an instrument rating are specified in 14 CFR 61.65.

General Requirements

  • You must already hold at least a private pilot certificate.
  • You must be able to read, speak, write, and understand the English language.
  • You must hold a valid medical certificate.
  • You must have a logbook endorsement certifying you are prepared for the FAA knowledge test.
  • You must pass the required FAA knowledge test

Flight Hour Requirements

  • You must have logged at least 50 hours of cross-country flight time as pilot in command, 10 of which in airplanes for an instrument-airplane rating.
  • You must have logged at least 15 hours of instrument flight training from an authorized instructor in the aircraft category for the instrument rating you want to obtain.
  • You must have logged a total of 40 hours of actual or simulated instrument time on the areas of operation listed in 61.65(c).
  • You must have completed a flight of 250 nautical miles along airways or ATC-directed routing that includes an instrument approach at each airport, and three different kinds of approaches with the use of navigation systems
  • Three hours of your IFR training must have been completed within two calendar months of your practical test.

Note that under Part 141, there is no requirement for cross-country flight time and the minimum instrument hours requirement is 35 hours.

IFR Currency Requirements

IFR currency requirements changed in late 2018.

Once you have obtained your instrument rating, to remain current, the following is required:

  • The standard six-month grace period must be counted as to end in the month before you plan to intend to fly.
  • A pilot whose currency has been lapsed for less than six months may continue to reestablish instrument currency by performing “six instrument approaches, holding procedures and tasks, and intercepting and tracking courses through the use of navigational electronic systems.”
  • Aviation Training Devices (ATD) can be used to maintain currency, and there is no longer any need to have an instructor present while using the device either.

When Is An Instrument Rating Required?

It can be hard to know the situations when an instrument rating is required because you must refer to several sections of the Federal Aviation Regulation, including FAR 91.135, 61.133, 91.155, and 91.157.

FAR states that an instrument rating is required:

  1. When flying in Class A airspace
  2. For cross-country commercial flights when carrying passengers for hire in excess of 50 nautical miles or at night
  3. When operating below VFR minimums in controlled airspace
  4. When operating under Special VFR at night

How Much Does It Cost to Get an Instrument Rating?

An instrument rating costs between $8,000-10,000 depending on aircraft rental, instructor time, ground school, study materials, and the written and check ride fees.

However, it would be wise to budget an additional 10-20% for additional training time, as well as fees for the aircraft rental and instructor time that comes with that.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Instrument Rating?

Along with the required flight time, and passing the written and practical test, obtaining an instrument rating can take as little as a couple of weeks, but generally 2-4 months on average for most pilots.

What Equipment Is Required for IFR Flight?

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

Thankfully, the equipment required for IFR flight is easy to remember with the acronym, “GRABCARD”:

  • 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

Do You Need an Instrument Rating to Become a Flight Instructor?

According to FAR 61.183:

“To be eligible for a flight instructor certificate or rating, a person must… hold either a commercial pilot certificate or airline transport pilot certificate with:

An instrument rating or privileges on that person’s pilot certificate that are appropriate to the flight instructor rating sought.”

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