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Instrument Rating

CBIR is a unique way to achieve the globally recognised IR validation. Carefully tailored to suit individual requirements our course is aimed at private pilots who do not want to take the commercial route.

Instrument Rating (IR) allows private pilots to fly through clouds (poor visibility) in controlled airspace, including airways.

A private pilot can take off and fly in any visibility conditions and fly a Class 1 ILS (Instrument Landing System) descent to a decision height of 200ft, and RVR (Runway Visual Range) of 550m (two crew) or 800m (single pilot).

Contact our in-house CBIR instructor for further information regarding a personalised instrument rating course to suit your requirements.

Aim of the course

The aim of the competency based modular “CBIR” course is for student pilots to act as PIC in IMC under IFR  within and outside controlled airspace.

The CBIR is unique in offering a route for experienced pilots with a history of instrument flying to train for the full Instrument Rating (IR) in a way that reflects their experience. This is in sharp contrast to the normal commercial route to the IR via a modular or integrated course, where no prior experience is assumed.

Therefore our CBIR training is tailored to your specific needs to get you up to the standard required to pass the initial IR flight test.

NB: The club does not offer multi-engine training.

The Cambridge Aero Club CBIR course emphasises practical or ‘real world’ IFR flight for a private pilot operating a light single engine aircraft.

Pre-course Requirements

  • Applicants must hold a PPL(A) or CPL(A).
  • 50 hours of cross-country flight time as PIC prior to starting the flying portion of the course.
  • For PPL(A) holders the nine theoretical knowledge exams must have been passed prior to commencing flight training. The Aero Club does not offer this ground element of the syllabus, but can advise on where to undertake it.
  • CAC recommends that private pilots obtain a night rating in order to be able to exercise the night-time IR privileges, but this is not mandatory.

The syllabus followed by CAC is used to achieve the competency standard regardless of previous experience. Before entry, candidates undertake an assessment flight conducted by the Aero Club’s Senior Instrument Instructor. The content of the flight is determined based on past training and experience.

Many CBIR pilots use their IR outside the professional area for recreation or business flights. Crucially, in this situation, they do not have the support of an Operations department to provide routes and flight plans.

Cambridge Aeroclub equips the IR pilot for real-world aviation, including finding valid IFR routes through the complex European airspace. We guide private pilots to make weather decisions, manage flight plans, contingency plans, and more. With our support, CBIR pilots can use their ratings to their fullest potential.

Completing the course

Applications for the rating require 40 hours instrument training and experience, 10 hours of which must be at an ATO such as Cambridge Aero Club.

We cater for this ATO element or the practical course in its entirety. Credit can be given for previous training (up to 30 hours) such as an IMC rating (15 hours) and instrument time as P1. When counting previous experience, hours may be credited based upon prior experience of flight under IFR in IMC gained via:

a) Instrument instruction by an IRI(A) or FI(A) qualified to give IR instruction on the aircraft type used or-

b) Prior flight time under IFR as PIC on aeroplanes under a rating providing the privileges to fly IFR under IMC.

Down the runway
Cessna 172 G1000 instruments

Up to 15 hours may be credited in instances where applicants have prior instrument instruction – other than identified above – by an FI(A) who – at the time of training – has a “No instrument instruction restriction” and no current IR.

On completion of training, the student must have a minimum of 40 credited hours IFR time, of which at least twenty-five hours must be by dual instruction, and 10 hours must be in an ATO.

Your first step towards undertaking the course is an informal discussion with one of our senior instrument rating instructors. To determine what type of training is required, an initial evaluation of previous experience is undertaken. The assessment is kept under review as you progress through the course.

Practicalities of the course

Down the runway

The CBIR written exams are based on a reduced theoretical knowledge subset, ensuring they are suitable for private pilots operating light aircraft, i.e., you don’t waste time learning about jets and high-performance aircraft systems.

Cambridge AeroClub does not offer training for those ground exams but can advise on appropriate training providers. We require students to complete their exams before commencing CBIR flight training with us.

For practical reasons, the training is best provided in one half-day or whole-day slots to allow for the in-depth nature of the syllabus. The intensity increases as the test approaches.

Information on fees can be found on our Autumn pricelist and equate to our dual hourly instruction rate + £50.00 per hour for CBIR.  Instrument approach fees at EGSC are not included in the training package. However, while training in our aircraft, you are eligible for a significant reduction on the Cambridge Airport list prices.


Having passed the flight test, the CBIR gives a PPL or CPL exactly the same privileges as the IR from the integrated or modular ‘professional’ courses.

The big advantage to the IR is that it is a globally recognised and respected ICAO rating that allows private pilots to fly anywhere in the world in variable weather, as long as they are well equipped.

As the IFR world moves towards Performance Based Navigation IFR-approved GPS systems, we have outfitted one of our Cessna 172s with world-renowned Garmin avionics – the latest system used for effective operation and navigation through low visibility.

So, bad weather is less likely to cause a cancellation, or spoil, that trip to France.

Cessna 172 G1000 instruments
Cessna 172 SP

NB: Upon completion of the course, the rating must be issued within 36 months from the date of passing the theoretical knowledge exams.

The Instrument Rating is valid for 12 months from date of test; we are pleased to offer extensive advice on this and to be able to facilitate renewals and revalidations to the IR too. For more on this check out our currency page.

We understand the complexities of pilots’ different training needs. We’re happy to discuss your requirements. Please contact us for further information.