How much should it cost to get IFR-rated? What to look for?

abelenky
  • How much should it cost to get IFR-rated? What to look for? abelenky

    (Related to this question)

    Many pilots have told me that an IFR rating is the most valuable thing i can do to improve my flying and margin of safety.

    I know there are courses as quick as, "Get your IFR in 10 days!", but I'm unsure if that's quality training that will stick with me.

    How much should it cost for a robust, worthwhile IFR program for single engine land airplanes?
    What would distinguish a worthy program from one that merely meets minimums?

  • The Part 141 flight school that I used to work at quoted around \$7,000 for their instrument package, which was 30 hours of dual flight, 20 hours of ground instruction, and 10 hours of PC-ATD simulator time. They were a Cessna Pilot Center using the old CPC King Schools course. It was a good course, and while numbers varied, I did have a couple of students who squeaked by right on the Part 141 course minimums. Other pilots added 5 to 10 hours more flight training into the mix.

    In general, my gut says that it should cost an average pilot who has 100+ hours and flies semi-regularly between \$7,000 and \$9,000; probably closer to the low end than the high end, especially if the student does a bunch of self study at home on a flight simulator, possibly using VATSim as a simulated ATC.

    As far as what to look for, I would recommend a Part 141 course just because the FAA is involved in the course standards, and instructor standardization is (supposed to be) part of the 141 criteria. It might be worth asking what their first-attempt pass rate is on checkrides, but that's not a meaningful long-term measure of the course's quality, just a short-term one.

    You should find a course whose syllabus makes sense, includes simulator training and scenario-based flights, and make sure you work with an instructor you like. They can't be your best friend - they very well might need to give you some serious critique or cut a lesson short because things aren't going well - but you should be happy to spend a couple of hours a foot away from them in the cockpit.


    I'm trying to track down the average hours to attain an instrument rating in the US; if I find it, I'll update my answer.

  • Unfortunately I don't have the full details any more of what I paid when I did my part 61 IR, but from what I can remember the costs are similar to the ones I listed in the other question you mentioned:

    • Aircraft rental
    • Instructor time (air and ground)
    • Materials (books, DVDs, charts, hood, timer etc.)
    • Written test fee
    • Examiner's fee for the actual test

    If we assume a part 61 instructor (\$40/hr) and an IFR-capable rented aircraft (\$130/hr wet) then we come out with something like this (you need a minimum of 40 hours instrument time):

    • 45 flying hours with instructor: \$7650
    • 15 hours ground school (instruction and simulator time): \$600
    • Materials: \$600
    • Written test fee: \$150
    • DPE test fee: \$400 (plus \$130 rental for the aircraft)
    • Total: \$9530

    Note that under part 61 you also need to have 50 hours cross-country PIC time, which I didn't include in this calculation. And I increased the materials cost slightly here, because IR materials seem to be more expensive than private pilot ones.

    Key factors to consider are the instructor (as with any training) and the aircraft. A good instructor will help make sure things stick in your mind, even if the training is accelerated. I required 49.6 dual hours for my IR according to my logbook, but that was spread out over 10 months and I could certainly have reduced it by flying more often.

    As for the aircraft, it's important to think about which aircraft you'll use your IR in, because training on a glass panel will probably be \$20+/hr more expensive than on 'steam gauges'.

    Finally, you can make a lot of use of PC simulators like Microsoft Flight Simulator to practice instrument flight at home, which will be a lot cheaper than doing it in the air and it's surprisingly effective. Your FBO or flight school might have something more advanced, of course. And self-study in general will cut down on the ground school time you need.

    I have no experience of part 141 or accelerated courses, so I can't say anything useful about those options but I would certainly research them if I was considering an IR. "Worthy" is a fairly subjective thing, but you can always ask around for recommendations, speak to previous students and so on.

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