News, Culture & Society

Why Having Your Instrument Rating Makes You a Better Pilot

It is well-known that flying under visual flight rules or VFR is only recommended when the skies are clear, and the weather is nice.

Trained pilots know that if you enter adverse weather conditions such as low visibility, clouds, or heavy precipitation, then the only safe way to fly is under IMC or instrument meteorological conditions.

If you’re a new pilot, there are other reasons to pursue your instrument rating besides being able to fly in changing weather conditions. First, the pilot who has their instrument rating is trained to pre-plan for flight and weather conditions.

A licensed pilot and flying expert Michael Hsu says that this includes judging fuel consumption, considering alternate routes, and being prepared for adverse weather hazards.

When a pilot flies into Instrument Meteorological Conditions (IMC), things can quickly become very tricky. Limited visibility, shear winds, lightning, and torrential rain can cause a pilot to lose track of spatial awareness and can most certainly cause high anxiety and stress.

Obtaining your instrument rating increases pilot confidence and passenger safety, even in calmer weather. Your flying will be much more accurate because of the precise flying techniques you learn.

This includes technical maneuvers such as airspeed, altitude changes, pitch, heading, and power.

Without your instrument rating, Micheal Hsu suggests only flying in the daytime and during good weather conditions. But, with the IFR certificate, a pilot can safely maneuver an aircraft at night through clouds, fog, and blinding rain.

The three leading causes of in-flight airplane accidents are bad weather, technical failures, and pilot errors. Your instrument rating can help a pilot avoid all three, while a non-instrument-rated pilot will be more prone to all three, says Michael Hsu.

So, why won’t all pilots seek their instrument rating? Michael Hsu believes many new pilots have false confidence after learning to fly using visual flight rules. The best reason is that obtaining your instrument rating can be challenging for some.

But, Michael Hsu believes that getting this higher level of flying proficiency is very rewarding and not challenging if you study the theory and practice the in-flight flying skills through differing airspace.

Even with your IFR certification, all pilots should always pre-plan an exact flight route and altitude (aka clearance) and stay in consistent contact with air traffic control. This is especially true if you deviate from your flight route due to weather, air traffic, or an emergency.

As much as Michael Hsu loves to fly, he is thrilled he has his instrument rating so his family and friends can travel with him and feel safe and secure. While IFR flying is more challenging than VFR flying, pilots are always better and safer with instrument-rated training.