The Competency Based Instrument Rating

There are several different training programmes for the ICAO instrument rating. They share the same skill test, and the same demonstration of high standards. What’s new in the CBIR is the training route and method to achieve the required standard. The scope of theoretical knowledge has been reduced by half. Flight training is based on your ability rather than following a prescribed, defined course. The time taken and training required will however vary widely with each pilot.


Before starting the course you need an UK Part-FCL PPL or CPL, 50 hours of PIC cross country time and English language proficiency. A night rating is needed if the IR is to be valid at night. Prior to applying for the rating, you will need a current UK Class 2 Medical with the extra hearing test necessary for the IR.


This is the full ICAO IR. Once qualified you can fly airways IFR and make instrument approaches to published minima anywhere in the world. It is valid for any UK registered aircraft and can be validated for use with others, where theory and/or practical tests may apply.

Theoretical Knowledge

The content of the theoretical knowledge course has been much reduced from before. There are seven subjects, each with their own multiple choice exam. The exams must be passed within a period of 18 months and are then valid for up to a further 36 months before licence application. There are several approved course providers – Rate One Aviation does not directly offer theory training.

We normally recommend that flight training does not commence until all theory exams have been passed but can be flexible about this.

Training Requirements

These are expressed in the UK legislation in a rather convoluted manner. The basic requirement is for 40 hours of instrument flight training and experience. At least 25 hours must be under instruction by a suitably-qualified instructor and at least 10 hours must be conducted by an ATO. 25 hours can be carried out in an FNPT2 certified simulator.

A couple of examples.

  1. You have done an IRR course. This takes a minimum of 15h instrument flight training. All of this counts. However, any further training must now be provided by an instructor specifically qualified to teach the IR. You can do as much of this as you like, and up to a further 15h will count, which gives 30h in total. All further training must now take place at an ATO to be eligible to be included in your 40h total minimum training time.
  2. You have done an IRR course. This took 18h. It was taught at a DTO by an instructor qualified to teach the IRR, but not the IR. So as before, you can count 15h, but not the further 3h. You then fly a total of 38h IFR PIC. 15h of this counts, so you now have 30h eligible for inclusion. As before, all further training must now take place at an ATO to be eligible to be included in your 40h total minimum training time.

In most circumstances it is going to mean 40 hours of flight instruction, of which at least 10 are in an ATO and will commence with an assessment flight to allow an estimate of the amount of training likely to be required. Since the assessment flight is a normal training flight, we include the flight time as part of the 10h total required at an ATO.

Flight training, skill test and licence application must all be completed within 36 months of passing the last theory exam, otherwise the exams will need to be retaken.

Instrument Rating Syllabus

The following is taken directly from the legislation:-

The flight instruction for the competency-based modular IR(A) shall comprise:

  1. Procedures and manoeuvres for basic instrument flight covering at least: – basic instrument flight without external visual cues: – horizontal flight; – climbing; – descent; – turns in level flight, climbing and descent. Instrument pattern; – steep turn; – radio navigation; – recovery from unusual attitudes; – limited panel; – recognition and recovery from incipient and full stall.
  2. Pre-flight procedures for IFR flights, including the use of the flight manual and appropriate air traffic services documents for the preparation of an IFR flight plan.
  3. Procedure and manoeuvres for IFR operation under normal, abnormal and emergency conditions covering at least: – transition from visual to instrument flight on take-off; – standard instrument departures and arrivals; – en-route IFR procedures; – holding procedures; – instrument approaches to specified minima; – missed approach procedures; – landings from instrument approaches, including circling.
  4. In flight manoeuvres and particular flight characteristics;
  5. If required, operation of a multi-engine aeroplane in the above exercises, including: – operation of the aeroplane solely by reference to instruments with one engine simulated inoperative; – engine shutdown and restart (to be carried out at a safe altitude unless carried out in an FFS or FNPT II).

This is mostly straightforward. Particular flight characteristics could mean anything and we take this to refer to being trained in any peculiarities of the specific aircraft being used. Instrument pattern is simple a series of manoeuvres designed to demonstrate competence in basic instrument flying. In truth the IR course tends to be most closely defined by the content of the skill test which is very prescriptive.

IR Revalidation

The rating is revalidated by an annual proficiency check which broadly follows the format of the initial skill test, although there is no requirement for an en-route sector to be flown providing the candidate has flown several route sectors during the previous 12 months. A revalidation flight in a MEP also revalidates a SEP but not vice versa. The rating can be revalidated 3 months prior to its expiry and extend 12 months from the original expiry date. If allowed to lapse the candidate will require training at an ATO on an as required basis. If the rating is allowed to lapse beyond 7 years, the TK will need to be retaken.

MEP (Multi-Engine Propeller)

The competency-based MEP IR requires 45 hours training, of which 10 hours can be in an FNPT1 or 30 hours in an FNPT2 simulator. A minimum of 25 hours must be dual instruction, of which 10 must be in an ATO and 15 in a MEP aircraft. A maximum of 20 hours of prior experience under IFR can also be counted. The intent is that of the 45 hours, 15 could be dual outside an ATO, 10 hours dual within an ATO and 20 hours be PIC under IFR.

A SEP IR can be upgraded to MEP IR with a minimum of 5 hours training at an ATO followed by a Skill Test.