Why get the IFR rating?
Earning your IFR rating allows you to take better advantage of your aircraft as a transportation tool. Instead of waiting (on the ground) for the Bay Area fog to clear, you can take off, climb through the fog layer, and proceed to your destination in glorious sunshine. Or if you're returning in the evening, and the fog layer covers the airport, you can simply shoot an instrument approach to a safe landing, rather than having to land at an alternate (VFR) airport and get a cab back to your original destination. Although the IFR rating does not automatically grant you the ability to fly in any weather conditions, it certainly makes flying more enjoyable and practical.
Is it safe?
While it may seem dangerous to fly an airplane at nearly 200 miles per hour while you can't see anything outside, accident statistics prove that instrument-rated pilots are, in fact, safer pilots. That's why, if you own an aircraft, your insurance rates will decrease significantly after you've earned your IFR rating. The simple truth is, IFR-rated pilots can handle unexpected weather changes that would constitute hazards to a VFR pilot. For example, if you're returning to the Bay Area on a summer evening, and the marine fog layer rolls in and covers your destination airport, you could simply shoot the instrument approach and land safely -- if you're properly rated and proficient at IFR flight. As a VFR-only pilot, you'd have to choose a different airport (without the fog layer obscuring it). So while IFR flying may not be perfectly safe, earning the rating will definitely make you a safer, more proficient pilot.
How difficult is it?
Most veteran pilots say that the IFR rating is probably the most difficult rating (aside from the Airline Transport Pilot certificate) that a pilot can earn. But they'll also tell you that it's the most rewarding. Although IFR training and proficiency demands quite a bit of concentration and effort, there's nothing quite like the feeling of shooting your first "real" instrument approach through a thick cloud layer. And the Bay Area is an ideal location for IFR training, since we have plenty of "soft" IFR (i.e. low clouds and fog) without too much of the "hard" IFR (thunderstorms, ice, and hail) that plagues Florida and the Midwest.
How much flight experience do I need?
In order to take the IFR checkride, you must have at least a private pilot's license. You must log at least 35 hours of actual or simulated instrument time. Of that 35 hours, 15 hours must be with a certified instrument flight instructor (abbreviated CFII or CFI-IA.) We also have an FAA-approved, loggable flight simulators.
How much will it cost?
The average cost for an instrument rating is about $18,000.
What does the exam for the instrument rating involve?
There are three parts: the written, oral, and flight tests. The written test is a 60-question, multiple-choice, computerized test. After you’ve passed the written, and your instructor certifies that you’re prepared for the oral and flight tests, a Designated Examiner will administer the final exam, or “checkride.” If you meet the performance standards, congratulations! You’ll be issued your license that same day.
What can I do with an instrument rating?
You can fly in IMC conditions and file IFR flight plans.