By Paul Wiley


As an experienced Instrument Flight Instructor (CFII) in Arizona, I sometimes hear private pilots talk about how you don’t need an instrument rating to fly in Arizona because of our good VFR flying weather better than 90% of the time.  While this is true, there are many other good reasons to get an Instrument rating other than just the ability to fly when the weather prohibits VFR flight.  This article describes the reasons I believe adding an Instrument rating to your pilot certificate is beneficial.  These are strictly my opinions based solely on my experience and observations.   

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As an Instrument rated pilot, you will be a better pilot because you will improve your:

  • Knowledge: You will know so much more about the many subjects which all pilots must know to fly safely including, but not limited to:
    • Regulations and Airspace
    • Weather, including how to use all sources of weather products and resources to identify and assess hazardous weather situations, e.g., icing and thunderstorms
    • Avionics, Navigation and Flight Planning
    • Air Traffic Control (ATC) and Communication Procedures
    • Crew Resource Management (CRM) and Single-Pilot Resource Management (SRM) including situational and positional awareness
    • Basic and Advanced Attitude Instrument Flying including Recovery from Unusual Attitudes solely by reference to instruments
    • Instrument Departure, Enroute, Arrival and Approach procedures (applies only to instrument rated pilots)
    • Emergency Procedures including loss of communication, loss of primary flight instrument indicators, other avionics/autopilot malfunctions
  • why get an instrument rating in arizona plane2Risk Management: You will be a safer pilot, able to better understand, identify, evaluate, and manage risk, including how to apply Aeronautical Decision-Making (ADM) best practices to identify hazards and manage/mitigate risk to the maximum extent possible. You will also be better able to manage distractions and use checklists appropriately to demonstrate proper Single-Pilot Resource Management (SRM).  You will be able to make more informed and better Go/No-Go decisions. 
  • Flying Skills and Precision: You will master flying your airplane more precisely which translates directly to safety. This means you can hold altitudes, headings and airspeeds to tighter tolerances and fly with more confidence, especially when communicating with ATC.  You will be able to navigate more precisely and update and interpret weather in flight.  You will master flying your airplane solely by reference to instruments. 
  • Single-Pilot Resource Management (SRM) It is worth emphasizing that SRM essentially means using all resources onboard the airplane as well as other resources not onboard such as ATC, Flight Service and Center Weather Advisory services. When you earn your instrument rating, you will be using the full capability of your avionics, your airplane systems, your knowledge and improved risk management skills. You will also benefit from the availability (to pilots flying IFR) of the entire support structure on the ground to provide maximum support to you before, during and post flight. This will undoubtably make you a safer pilot with more options as to where and when you can go fly.
  • why get an instrument rating in arizona plane3Complex and High-Performance Airplanes: By adding an instrument rating to your pilot certificate you will improve your ability to move up and fly more complex and higher performance airplanes at reasonable insurance rates.
  • Money: Last but certainly not least is the savings you will realize from your insurance company by adding an instrument rating to your pilot certificate. Normally you can plan on about a 20% discount to your insurance, just by adding the instrument rating to your certificate. The actual savings are dependent upon the specific airplane and pilot’s other ratings and experience as well as which insurance company you use.  Keep in mind that this is not just a one-time savings, rather you will enjoy these savings year after year going forward. The Aircraft Owner’s and Pilot’s Association (AOPA) Air Safety Institute recommends that instrument rated pilots complete an Instrument Proficiency Check (IPC) every 6 months.  Completion of the IPC also satisfies the requirement for a Flight Review per FAR 61.56.  I also highly recommend participating in a pilot proficiency program, specifically the FAA’s WINGS program. Most insurance companies also offer discounts to pilots participating in a pilot proficiency program such as WINGS.  A typical discount is 10% (in addition to the discount for having an instrument rating).   Usually the insurance company will query you on a yearly basis to ensure you are still currently participating in a pilot proficiency program to earn this discount. 

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I can also recommend a very good and related article in the May 2024 edition of the AOPA Pilot magazine by Kollin Stagnito regarding issues related to the cost of airplane insurance.  He states: “Training and recent flight experience is the best way to ensure the lowest rates”. 

In conclusion earning your instrument rating will make you a safer and more competent pilot.  It will also save the owner pilot a substantial amount of money on their insurance.

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