Why You Should Get An Instrument Rating

As the owner & operator of a flight school that specializes in instrument flight training, I’m obviously a big fan of the instrument rating. In fact, over the last several years, I’ve made a genuine career out of it. However, this article is not intended to be a self-serving sales pitch. But quite often I find myself talking to pilots who are considering an instrument rating and seeking my advice. Therefore, what follows is simply a summary of what I tell them:

Safer & Better

I’ll start with the most important reasons first. Instrument flight training forces you to become more intimate with your airplane and its systems. Additionally, you learn to analyze weather and flight planning more closely too. Each of these factors plays a significant role in adding safety to all aspects of your flying – IFR or VFR. Furthermore, as any CFII will tell you, instrument pilots tend to make more informed decisions, use smoother control inputs, and display greater confidence in the cockpit. This ultimately translates into better results for you and your passengers. But wait… there’s more.

In the Know

When I was a private pilot (sans instrument rating), oftentimes I’d hear ATC tell other aircraft strange things such as “join the localizer” or “report the outer marker.” I figured those were IFR instructions, but I didn’t know exactly what they meant. And although I was a fairly new pilot, I really wished I did. Then one day I went flying with a college classmate who had recently earned his instrument rating. We filed a flight plan, picked up an IFR clearance, and shot an approach (in actual IMC) at our destination. Needless to say, I was very impressed. However, that experience made me realize that there was even more stuff I didn’t know. After that, I couldn’t wait to get my instrument rating because I thought it would enable me to connect the dots – and I was right.
     So what’s the bottom line here? With an instrument rating you will know how to use the entire system as it was designed (ATC, navigational aids, procedures, etc.). Whether or not you use it is completely up to you, but you’ll appreciate being familiar with the additional resources just in case.

Keep Your Plans

To become a private pilot, you probably spent a considerable amount of your time & money. In most cases, this effort was to earn the ability to fly at your convenience for business and/or pleasure. However, without an instrument rating, it doesn’t take long to realize that you always need to keep your travel plans soft. Why? Because of that thin layer of low clouds waiting to ground you on the day of your trip. Of course, this may be acceptable for a family vacation (you can just wait it out), but for a scheduled business meeting it’s just not practical.
     The good news is that with an instrument rating, this frustrating routine becomes a thing of the past. And barring any major weather that usually provides early warning anyway, you can consistently depart and arrive as scheduled. Remember, you got your pilot certificate for a reason – it’s nice to be able to use it.

Cheaper Insurance

Aviation insurance companies smile upon instrument-rated pilots, and rightly so. Why? Because they know all of the same things I’m sharing with you now. Furthermore, the insurance industry is run strictly by the numbers. Decades of statistics show that instrument pilots, due to their additional training and experience, are less likely to make a claim. It’s just that simple. Therefore, you can expect premium discounts of about 10-25% after earning your instrument rating.

Food Tastes Better

Ok, maybe that’s a stretch. But, for me and other pilots like me, there’s just something more satisfying about flying IFR. It might be the smoother ride above the clouds or even the perceived better treatment from ATC. Or maybe it’s the opportunity to use more of the knowledge & skills I’ve worked so hard to master. In any case, at the end of the day, it’s just a whole lot more fun. But don’t just take my word for it – see for yourself.