The instrument rating can be completed any time after the private pilot license. Before the instrument rating, the pilot had to fly by reference to ground. As one flies in adverse weather, this becomes impractible.The instrument rating gives the pilot the ability to fly through clouds and in reduced visibility; absolutely essential for airline or charter flying.
The private and commercial licenses give the pilot some training on flying by sole reference to instruments. This falls far short of what is required on the instrument rating.
The candidate must successfully complete a written exam with 70% or higher. A flight test is also required. Although no minimum ground school hours are required, it is recommended that one take some ground school to prepare for the exam and the practical part of the instrument rating.
One must learn to prepare an IFR cross-country flight, using airways or air routes. This involves navigating with radio aids such as VOR, NDB, or GPS. The pilot also must learn holding patterns, and proper entry procedures. Instrument approaches, precision (with vertical guidance), and non-precision (without vertical guidance) must also be mastered. The flight test requires the candidate demonstrate proficiency in these areas.
The instrument rating will open many new doors for the pilot. A pilot must be cautious that his or her aircraft is capable of handling flying in this type of weather, and is protected against such hazards as icing. The pilot must also be sure their skills are always up to par, to handle the situation. The instrument rating is challenging, but well worth it.