Ballpark Estimate: $7,000 to $10,000+ (Standard); $5,000 to $7,200 (Accelerated)
One of the most exasperating limitations of having an unrated private pilot’s license is that if it’s a cloudy day or if dusk is setting in – you’re grounded! The options you have are to wait until the weather clears, postpone your flight until the next clear day, or enroll in an instrument flight rules (IFR) course. By enrolling in an instrument rating course, you will learn to fly and navigate the aircraft solely through the guidance of your instruments and flight gauges in the cockpit, instead of looking out the window. Once you have your instrument rating license, you can fly and operate in the instrument rating environment without worrying about cloud clearance or visibility.
- Possess private pilot license with at least 5-hours flight time in the previous month
- Third-class FAA medical certificate
- Flown at least 50-hours cross country as a licensed pilot (flying time away from the immediate vicinity of an airport with one landing at least 25 nautical miles from original point of origin)
Major Subjects Covered in an instrument Training Course
- Flight planning and route selection
- Pre-flight cockpit checks and instrument scanning
- Basic attitude instrument flying with timed turns, unusual attitudes and precision adjustments
- Navigation utilizing ground and space-based systems
- Meteorology and weather
- How to use the Air Traffic Control IFR System (IFR communications, VOR/NDB/Glidescope-Intercept and tracking)
- Flying instrument approaches including non-precision, precision, procedure turns, holds, and missed approaches
- Emergency procedures
The two most expensive components of instrument training are for the hours spent in a flight simulator, followed by the hours of actual flight training in an airplane. Keep in mind your costs will be significantly higher at schools that do not utilize simulators. This is because you will have to rent an airplane for all your instrument training at a cost of around $110 per hour compared to about $40 per hour in a simulator.
Average Instrument Training Costs:
- $6,000 – with flight simulators
- $8,200 – without flight simulators
- Instrument Trainging Kit/DVD’s – $400
- FAA written and flight exams – $500
- FAA Examiners fee – $350
- Aircraft rental costs for FAA flight test – $400
Total estimated costs: $7,000 to $10,000+
It is important to understand that in most flying schools, their estimated costs are not fixed but in reality are based on averaging the number of hours taken by previous students to master the program. In other words, there is no set timetable for completing the course since each student progresses at their own pace. Since the majority of the cost comes from the number of rental hours for the airplane and the number of hours with a flight instructor, the longer it takes an individual to acquire instrument rating skills, the more expensive the training will be.
Accelerated Instrument Training
For motivated individuals, some schools offer an accelerated program that allows pilots to obtain their instrument rating in just 10 days for a fixed all-inclusive price. The training is called accelerated because it is based on a full-day schedule of flying 2 or 3 times a day supplemented with ground and simulator sessions. This extremely concentrated level of instruction is available to any private pilot that meets the prerequisite number of flying hours, can pass an instrument pilot knowledge exam, holds a third-class FAA medical certificate, and can demonstrate proficiency in visual flight rules (VFR).
For this reason, these schools consider the intensity of their instrument training sufficient enough for any experienced private pilot to get his or her instrument rating in only 10 days.
Included in the guaranteed single-price is unlimited hours in a simulator and unlimited instructor time. In fact, some schools even supply a personal one-on-one instructor for each student. The FAA Examiner’s fee is the only out-of-pocket training expense, usually around $350. Better yet, the cost of this program is significantly less if you use your own airplane for the training. Not only is the bottom-line cost reduced but the free use of a private hangar for your plane is also included in the fixed-price.
Estimated Fixed Costs:
- $5,000 – your airplane is used for the instrument training
- $7,200 – the school’s plane is used
In the event the student needs more than the 10 days to finish the course because of weather delays, aircraft breakdowns, or simply to acquire more needed training, some schools will provide the instructor training at no extra charge for a student-owned aircraft but if the airplane belongs to the school, the per hour rental fee will be charged (around $110 per hour for a Cessna 172). Other schools will provide two extra days of training free of charge. If the two days is still insufficient, one additional day is billed at 50% of the daily rate. For any additional days the student is billed at the full daily rate which is $600 for a student-owned airplane or $850 for a school-owned airplane.
Flying under instrument flying rules is often spoken of as being the most challenging and at the same time the most rewarding flying a pilot will ever do. Although costs always play a significant role in one’s decision-making, shop around, and try to err on the side of quality training from a quality school. Your life may depend on it!