What’s the next step after earning your private pilot certificate? For many pilots, one goal is the addition of an instrument rating, which permits flying under IFR (Instrument Flight Rules). This means you can fly in the clouds without referencing the ground or horizon. Without an instrument rating, you’re limited to flying under VFR (Visual Flight Rules) and can only operate on clear weather days with good visibility.
There are many advantages to earning an instrument rating, beyond the most obvious benefit of being able to fly in weather conditions below VFR minimums. If you’re thinking about adding an instrument rating to your pilot certificate, here are five good reasons to get started today:
Gain in-depth instrument knowledge
During your instrument training, you’ll get to know your airplane’s avionics equipment inside and out. You’ll understand how each of your aircraft’s instruments works and most importantly, what to do in the event of instrument failure. The extra knowledge of your instruments will be extremely helpful in all different flying environments, both VFR and IFR.
Understand and analyze weather conditions
Instrument training requires a comprehensive study of weather systems and reports. When you undergo instrument training, you’ll be able to understand and interpret weather data like never before, both during preflight and in flight. Weather conditions can change quickly when you’re in the skies, but thanks to your training, you’ll be prepared to handle all types of weather situations.
Improve your communication skills
When you’re flying high in the clouds, you must rely on ATC to keep you safe, which is why effective radio communication is a crucial aspect of IFR flight. Flying IFR requires you to understand the controller’s rapid-fire instructions and read back clearances quickly and clearly. IFR radio calls can take some getting used to, but with some practice, you will become a more confident communicator.
Cancel fewer flights
With an instrument rating, your flying is no longer restricted to clear weather days. Many times, instrument flight allows the completion of trips that might otherwise be canceled due to inclement weather. With more freedom to fly through clouds and difficult airspace, you’ll cancel fewer trips and open up your flying to exciting new possibilities.
Become a better, safer pilot
There’s no question that obtaining an instrument rating is a great way to improve your skills as a pilot. If you find yourself inadvertently flying into IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions), you’ll be able to use your skills to safely recover from a potentially dangerous situation. Even if the weather is technically VFR, you might consider filing and flying IFR to reduce the risk of spatial disorientation or a controlled flight into terrain accident. Flying IFR, even on clear days, will also help you maintain proficiency. With a greater understanding of your instruments, you’ll be able to control the airplane better and improve your ability to hold altitude, airspeed, and heading accurately. These skills can be used when flying VFR, too.
The instrument rating is one of the most challenging ratings to acquire. It takes time, money, and dedication. Most importantly, a steadfast commitment to proficiency is essential if you want to be a safe IFR pilot. In the end, many pilots count earning their instrument rating as one of their most rewarding accomplishments. To learn more about IFR training, visit the AOPA’s website.