To know all the situations when an instrument rating is required, you need to reference several different sections of the Federal Aviation Regulations, including FAR 91.135, 61.133, 91.155, and 91.157.

4 Situations When You Need An Instrument Rating

According to FAR 91.135:

“Each person operating an aircraft in Class A airspace must conduct that operation under instrument flight rules (IFR).”

According to FAR 61.133:

“The carriage of passengers for hire in (airplanes) (powered-lifts) on cross-country flights in excess of 50 nautical miles or at night is prohibited.”

According to FAR 91.155:

“Except as provided in § 91.157 no person may operate an aircraft under VFR when the flight visibility is less, or at a distance from clouds that is less, than that prescribed for the corresponding altitude.”

According to FAR 91.157:

“Special VFR operations may only be conducted between sunrise and sunset… unless the person being granted the ATC clearance meets the applicable requirements for instrument flight under part 61.”

An instrument rating is therefore required:

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

Can You Fly IFR Without An Instrument Rating?

No, you cannot fly under IFR without an instrument rating.

However, if you are not acting as pilot in command, you are able to file an IFR flight plan without an instrument rating.

Is An Instrument Rating Required 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”