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Common Instrument Rating Limitations, Privileges & Requirements

The Instrument rating qualification is designed to prove a pilot’s competence flying in poor weather conditions under IFR – or instrument flight rules. Simply put, IFR applies when the visibility is too low to fly safely by visual sight alone, whether from intrusive fog, intense storms, or snowy whiteouts, for example. Rather, the pilot gets to and from their destination by way of cockpit instruments. That opens the lid on your flying opportunities while saddling you with new responsibilities as you set out to meet the exciting challenge of becoming a better-trained pilot.  If you’re considering obtaining an instrument rating, keep reading to learn more about some common requirements, privileges, and limitations of this type of training program.

What Is An Instrument Rating?

Undergoing instrument training is normally the next step a newly minted pilot takes after receiving their private pilot license (PPL). A PPL allows you to fly only under visual flight rules (VFR), and requires a 40-hour minimum training regime. The private pilot training process is where you’ll first be exposed to airplane instruments and their operation. An instrument rating course expands and refines that exposure, giving you the ability to fly even when the visual conditions are poor. With the added training, you’ll become a much more competent, confident pilot

Instrument Rating Requirements

Similar to the private pilot training process, you’re required to meet a set of requirements in order to qualify for an instrument rating program. This includes the following criteria:

  • Hold a current private pilot certificate, or be enrolled in a PPL program.
  • Read, speak, write and understand English.

Before you can complete the certification process, you’ll need to complete these tasks:


  • Obtain a CFI-endorsed logbook or training record before the FAA knowledge test, covering some of the following topics:
  • IFR FAA Regulations.
  • IFR information is contained in the Aeronautical Information Manual.
  • Air traffic control (ATC) and crew communication for IFR.
  • Navigation under IFR.
  • Weather forecasting, trend analysis, and wind shear avoidance.
  • Prove proficiency flying by way of instruments, covering some of the following operational procedures: 
  • Preflight preparation.
  • ATC clearances and protocol.
  • Instruments flying and navigation.
  • Instrument approaches.
  • Emergency operations.
  • Postflight procedures.
  • Log the correct number of hours to obtain an instrument rating:
    • 50 hours of cross-country flight time as pilot in command.
    • 40 hours of instrument training total, actual or simulated.
      • 15 hours of training with an authorized instructor (CFII).
      • Three hours of preparation for the FAA Instrument Rating-Airplane (IRA) exam.
      • Cross-country flight of 250 nautical miles with specific instrument requirements. 

Instrument Rating Privileges

The greatest part about achieving your instrument rating is that you won’t have to stay grounded due to inclement conditions. As a private pilot, you’re only allowed to fly under VFR, but when you’re certified to fly under IFR, you can take even further control of your travels.  Additionally, you can fly during the day or at nighttime under instrument meteorological conditions (IMC). IMC defines a pilot’s visibility, cloud distance and ceiling clearance in a poor-visibility situation. This is generally when you have less than a mile of visibility, like when flying through a cloud. Instrument skills are particularly useful on cross-country flights, as you’re bound to encounter some type of poor weather system on a long-distance adventure.

Like a private pilot certificate, an instrument rating allows you to fly for personal or business reasons, in a much more unrestricted way. With an instrument rating, you can effectively evaluate weather conditions to file an instrument flight, efficiently move through different types of airspace and fly in unclear conditions. This is ideal for those who would love to advance further in the pilot training process – after you achieve an instrument rating, you can then move to the next step, applying for a commercial pilot license (CPL). With this certification, you can officially start applying for flying jobs and make money as a pilot.

Instrument Rating Limitations

An instrument rating is one of the most freeing steps you can take in your flight training journey. But, it does come with a few restrictions that may require further training to overcome. For example, like the PPL, you’re not able to charge a fee for flying passengers or cargo, unless it’s incidental to your business or employer. The good news, however, is that much of the training conducted for your IFR certificate can be applied toward a CPL. After you obtain your commercial license, you’re free to look for jobs as a pilot so you can enter a challenging, rewarding career.

Are you ready to start instrument training?

Now is the best time to add an instrument rating to your skillset as a pilot. Just let the professional team of instructors at Inflight Pilot Training set you on a path toward success. We develop personalized plans designed around our students’ goals. With a high-quality fleet of airplanes, experienced crew, and diverse training programs, you’ll soar to new heights under our guidance.

Let our CFIs elevate your learning experience as you take to the skies. If you’re interested in learning more about Inflight programs, contact us today or call (952) 698-3000.