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Why Having Your Instrument Rating Makes You a Better Pilot

Achieving your instrument rating will be one of the more difficult yet rewarding ratings you’ll pursue during your flight training. Those pilots that don’t want to be restricted by low-visibility conditions and would like to fly whenever they please should consider adding this rating to their growing list of qualifications.

An instrument rating is added to a private or commercial pilot license and refers to the qualification requirements that a pilot must carry to fly under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR).

The skills you gain throughout your IFR training will make you a smarter pilot. You’ll learn special skills such as various instrument scanning techniques and controlling the plane solely by instrument, as well as gain in-depth knowledge of how aircraft technology operates.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), weather is the factor most likely to result in aviation accidents with fatalities. While an instrument rating is not an “all weather license,” so to speak, obtaining an IFR certification confirms that the pilot has the proper knowledge and skill to operate safely in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) during all phases of flight.

Instrument Rating Requirements

First, to obtain your instrument rating you must at least hold a private pilot certificate or are currently working towards certification. Additionally, you need to log the following flight times:

  • At least 50 hours of cross-country flight time as pilot in command.
  • At least 10 of these hours must be in airplanes for an instrument-airplane rating.
  • A total of 40 hours of actual or simulated instrument time on the areas of operation listed in 61.65(c).

Getting an instrument rating means you’ll be able to fly under special conditions, such as poor weather and at night, that would ground the pilot who doesn’t have the designation. It also comes with a few other advantages that will make you a better, more successful pilot – here’s how.

“Staying Ahead” of the Aircraft

When you start your IFR training, you’ll be taught how to “stay ahead” of your plane. This means that you’ll learn how to transform your thinking from real-time flying to being a couple of steps ahead of the airplane. It’s critical that you develop the ability to understand the airplane’s performance at the present point of time, as well as in the not-so-distant future. With so many things happening at once, instrument flying students need to get in the mindset of planning two or three steps ahead of the current task at hand. Before you even realize it, you’ll be putting this mental hack to good use constantly – even for tasks that don’t have to do with aviation!

Become more Well-Rounded

While you will learn the basics and necessities when you go through private pilot training, there’s much, much more to learn when it comes to flying and aviation technology. With an instrument rating, you will become much more knowledgeable on the instruments and inner-workings of an airplane. You gain first-hand experience on how airplane instruments work and will learn what to do in the event of instrument failure. The additional knowledge of autopilot systems and GPS technology will also come in use for different flying conditions.

You can Soar Higher than 18,000 Feet

When you obtain your instrument rating, you can get to the highest levels your plane will allow, where you can take advantage of bigger tailwinds, faster airspeeds and of course – breathtaking views. Overall, you’ll become a better pilot once you learn the art of flying at greater heights.

Become a Safer Pilot

Overall, an instrument rating means you’ll become a safer pilot. While relying on gut instinct or experience can be helpful, you will have added peace of mind knowing that the instruments are properly guiding the way.

You’ll also be better prepared for any weather conditions that may arise during flight. When going through instrument training, you’ll get in-depth on weather reporting and theory, as well as learn specific skills like recognizing thunderstorms, air currents, ice storms, frontal passages and more.

Better Pre-Flight Planning

While a private pilot training will teach you essential pre-flight planning, a pilot with an instrument rating will learn about much more, like fog, low ceilings and icing hazards. Additionally, the training prepares pilots for alternates, deviations, traffic delays, flying hazards, fuel stops and more.

Always ask yourself these questions before you take off:

  • What if I’m not able to complete the flight as planned?
  • What are the en route weather changes?
  • What do I do if I lose communication with Air Traffic Control (ATC)?
  • What do I do if I get lost?
  • What happens if my fuel starts to run low, or another fuel crisis arises?
  • Which alternate airports are nearby that I could deviate to, should conditions get too bad?
  • What is my plan for instrument malfunctions?

You Know the Details of every ATC Radio Call

When you hear air traffic control sputter out a string of words and numbers, you will have the knowledge necessary to decipher the code. The next time they tell you to descend via the SID, you’ll know exactly what they mean.

You’ll Master Heavy-Traffic Areas

With an instrument rating, you’ll gain the knowledge of identifying exact locations of other aircraft in your location, as well as at the originating airport and intended destination. You’ll get the benefit of improving your situational awareness and develop skills that help avoid collisions.

Develop Precision and Accuracy

When you obtain your instrument rating, you’ll become a much more accurate pilot. During your IFR training, you learn to control your airplane much more precisely, sticking to your appointed altitude, airspeed or heading, or making accurate pitch and power adjustments for a climb.

Ready to be a Better Pilot? Get Your Instrument Rating with Inflight Today!

Having an instrument rating makes you a better pilot, hands down. You can fly through clouds, at night, through fog and more. While achieving an instrument rating may require hard work and dedication, the rewards will let you soar to greater heights more safely.


If you want to obtain an IFR rating, contact Inflight Pilot Training today to get started with the next step in your aviation career!