Sort­ing out the rat­ings


With a plethora of dif­fer­ent kinds of in­stru­ment rat­ings around th­ese days, it might be help­ful to clar­ify just what is what. So here’s my quick (and by no means com­pre­hen­sive) guide.

The ‘full’ in­stru­ment rat­ing – earn­ing an un­adorned ‘IR’ in your li­cence – is just that. The holder is en­ti­tled to the full priv­i­leges of the in­stru­ment rat­ing af­ter pass­ing seven writ­ten ex­ams and a skills test. In the EASA ver­sion, min­i­mum fly­ing train­ing hours are fifty hours sin­gle-en­gine or 55 hours multi. The rat­ing can be used any­where in the world and must be reval­i­dated ev­ery year. Avi­a­tion au­thor­i­ties in other coun­tries (such as the FAA in the US) have dif­fer­ent train­ing re­quire­ments but the rat­ing car­ries the same priv­i­leges.

The ‘com­pe­tency based’ in­stru­ment rat­ing (CB-IR) car­ries ex­actly the same priv­i­leges as the full IR. In­deed, it is a full IR, the only dif­fer­ence be­ing the route get­ting there and the ex­tra let­ters ‘CB-IR’ on your li­cence. It’s an EASA rat­ing but valid glob­ally. You still need to pass seven ex­ams but the the­ory is some­what less in­volved than the full IR. The min­i­mum train­ing hours are also a lit­tle lower. A key ben­e­fit for many UK pi­lots is that some of the hours flown for the IR(R) rat­ing as well as sub­se­quent IFR trips can count to­wards the to­tal re­quired – hence the com­pe­tency bit. This is cur­rently the best op­tion for a Euro­pean pri­vate pi­lot to achieve an in­stru­ment rat­ing.

The ‘IR(R)’ (or IMC rat­ing as it used to be called) is a re­stricted

in­stru­ment rat­ing is­sued only in the UK. You’ll need a min­i­mum fif­teen hours fly­ing train­ing and there’s a sin­gle writ­ten exam. The rat­ing gives you some of the priv­i­leges of the full in­stru­ment rat­ing but the land­ing vis­i­bil­ity min­i­mums are higher, and cru­cially you can­not fly in Class A airspace, which es­sen­tially bars you from the IFR sys­tem. And you can’t use the rat­ing out­side the UK. On the hori­zon is the ‘BIR’ or

ba­sic in­stru­ment rat­ing, which will al­low EASA li­cence hold­ers to fly IFR any­where in Europe in­clud­ing Class A airspace, al­though to higher min­i­mums than the full IR. The goal is to make a much more ac­ces­si­ble in­stru­ment rat­ing for pri­vate pi­lots. The fi­nal roll­out is still to come, hope­fully within a year or two, but when it does it will prob­a­bly largely su­per­sede the CB-IR as the best way to get a size­able slice of the priv­i­leges of an in­stru­ment rat­ing for sub­stan­tially less has­sle and ex­pen­di­ture.

And fi­nally, to add to this headache of acronyms, the ‘EIR’ or

en route in­stru­ment rat­ing. In my opin­ion, this is a poorly-con­ceived idea which I won’t go into, largely be­cause al­most no­body has both­ered to get one since it first ar­rived on the scene along­side the CB-IR.

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