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Instrument Rating Workbook

Updated: Dec 12, 2022


This is the Master Copy of the Instrument Rating Workbook. It does not teach any topics in depth but provides tools for helping students to memorize important items needed to fly safely and to pass their FAA Written Test and Checkride Exams.

After studying this document, we suggest printing the Practice Copy of this Workbook at the link below:


You can also listen to this workbook as an audio reading by clicking the "Play" button below.


Below you will find all of the applicable ACS Subject Areas. Clicking any of the links in this table of contents will jump you to the appropriate section of this document.



Types of Risk

  1. Total Risk = The sum of identified and unidentified risks.

  2. Identified Risk = Risk that has been identified and determined.

  3. Unidentified Risk = Risk that has not yet been identified.

  4. Acceptable Risk = Risk that can be allowed to persist.

  5. Unacceptable Risk = Risk that cannot be allowed to persist.

  6. Residual Risk = Risk remaining after safety efforts have been fully employed.

Hazardous Attitudes

Checklists and Models

The 5P Model

Plan - Plane - Pilot - Passengers - Programming.




  • Actual Instrument Conditions = Any flying that is done in weather conditions that are less than VFR (VMC).

  • Simulated Instrument Conditions = This flying can be accomplished in VFR (VMC) via the use of a View Limiting Device (hood or foggles).

  • Safety Pilot = A properly rated pilot (at lease Private Pilot) in the airplane for safety as the PIC performs Instrument Maneuvers with a View Limiting Device. Most commonly used to achieve Instrument Currency.

Recency Requirements to Act as PIC in IFR Conditions

Remember “666”

  • 6 = 6 Instrument Approaches and a Hold (with intercepting and tracking procedures)

  • 6 = Within the previous 6 months

  • 6 = If not, you have 6 additional months to obtain currency (the Grace Period).

Instrument Proficiency Check (IPC)

  • When is an IPC Required?

    • If you would like to act as PIC in Instrument Conditions or on an Instrument Flight Plan after your 6 month Grace Period has lapsed.

  • What is an IPC?

    • Essentially like an IFR Checkride.

  • Who can give an IPC?

    • DPE (Designated Pilot Examiner)

    • CFII (Certified Flight Instructor Instrument)

  • Can you fail an IPC?

    • No. If your performance is unsatisfactory, you simply will receive more training and re-attempt.



Required Preflight Items to Check

Remember the acronym “WKFARTN.”

Obtaining an IFR Clearance from a Controlled Field

Given in the format “CRAFT.”

Obtaining an IFR Clearance from an Uncontrolled Field

  • Given in the same CRAFT format above.

  • You will call (888) 766-8267 on the phone to receive and read back clearance.

  • Will also include a Clearance Void Time.



Required Aircraft Documents

Remember the acronym “ARROW.”

  • A = Airworthiness Certificate

  • R = Registration Certificate

  • R = Radio Station License (outside the US)

  • O = Operating Handbook

  • W = Weight and Balance

Required Aircraft Inspections

Airworthiness Directives (ADs)

  • Required to be complied with and may not be overflown.

Form 337’s

  • Major Alterations or Repairs.

  • Any change not on the Aircraft Type Certificate Data Sheet (TCDS).

Required VFR Day Equipment

Remember the acronym “ATOMATOFLAMES.”

  • A = Airspeed Indicator

  • T = Tachometer

  • O = Oil Pressure Gauge

  • M = Manifold Pressure Gauge

  • A = Altimeter

  • T = Temperature Gauge

  • O = Oil Temperature Gauge

  • F = Fuel Quantity Indicators

  • L = Landing Gear Position Indicators

  • A = Anti-Collision Lights

  • M = Magnetic Compass

  • E = Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT)

  • S = Safety Belts

Required VFR Night Equipment

Remember the acronym “FLAPS.”

  • All Day VFR Equipment plus the following:

  • F = Fuses (spares)

  • L = Landing Light (if the aircraft is for hire)

  • A = Anti-Collision Lights

  • P = Position Indicator Lights

  • S = Source of Electricity

Required IFR Equipment

Remember the acronym “GRABCARDD.”

All Day and Night VFR Equipment plus the following:

  • G = Generator/Alternator

  • R = Radios applicable to the flight (comm and nav)

  • A = Altimeter (pressure sensitive)

  • B = Ball (slip/skid indicator)

  • C = Clock (installed in aircraft)

  • A = Attitude Indicator

  • R = Rate of Turn Indicator

  • D = Directional Gyro (heading indicator)

  • D = DME (if flying above FL240 and using VORs)



LAHSO - Land and Hold Short Operations

  • Must a pilot accept a LAHSO Clearance? = No.

  • Must a pilot adhere to an accepted LAHSO Clearance? = Yes.

  • Can a pilot still perform a Go-Around if needed? = Yes.

Sterile Cockpit Principle

Means no unnecessary conversations or duties during critical phases of flight:

  • Taxi, Takeoff, Approach, Landing.

Hot Spots

Spots on the airport indicating congestion or confusion.

Situational Awareness

Always knowing your current position, future plan, and paying attention to what is going on around you.

Airport Signs

Airport Markings



Types of Hypoxia

Symptoms of Hypoxia

  • Cyanosis (blue fingernails and lips)

  • Headache

  • Decreased Response Times

  • Impaired Judgement

  • Euphoria

  • Visual Impairment

  • Drowsiness

  • Dizzy Sensations

  • Numbness

  • Tingling in Fingers and Toes

Hypoxia Corrective Actions

  • Descend to lower altitude

  • Put on an oxygen mask

  • Stop pulling G-forces


Too much oxygen. Not enough carbon dioxide to regulate the breathing rate.

  • Breathe into a paper bag

  • Talk or sing aloud

  • Reduce breathing rate

Middle Ear and Sinus Congestion

  • Traps air pressure in sinuses.

  • Pilots experience an ease of pain during the climb.

  • Pilots experience increased pain during descent.

Motion Sickness

Caused by the brain receiving conflicting messages about the state of the body.

Carbon Monoxide (CO) Poisoning

  • Colorless and odorless gas.

  • Attaches to blood cells 200 times faster than oxygen.

  • Most commonly from the aircraft heater.


  • Headache

  • Blurred Vision

  • Dizziness

  • Drowsiness

  • Loss of Muscle Power

  • Death

Stress and Fatigue

Alcohol Rules

  1. 8 hours from bottle to throttle.

  2. .04% BAC max.

  3. No flying while hungover or under the influence.

Scuba Diving Wait Times



Terms and Definitions

  • Arm = The horizontal distance from the reference datum to the CG of an item.

  • Ballast = Weight carried in the aircraft to shift the CG within allowable limits.

  • Center of Gravity (CG) = The point at which an airplane would balance if suspended.

  • Center of Lift (CL) = The point at which the lift is concentrated on the wing.

  • CG Limits = The extreme locations within which the CG must land.

  • Datum = An imaginary vertical plane from which all measurements of Arms are taken.

  • Moment = The product of the weight of an item multiplied by its Arm.

  • Station = A location along the airplane fuselage usually given in terms of distance.

Effects of Being Overweight

  • Longer takeoff run.

  • Reduced rate and angle of climb.

  • Service ceiling lowered.

  • Cruise speed reduced.

  • Cruise range shortened.

  • Maneuverability is decreased.

  • Longer landing roll.

  • Excessive loads on landing gear.

Effects of CG Locations

The Weight Shift Formula

  • Weight Shifted/Total Weight = Change of CG/Distance Weight is Shifted

The Weight and Balance Formula

  • Weight X Arm = Moment



Class A Airspace

Class B Airspace

Class C Airspace

Class D Airspace

Class E Airspace

Class G Airspace

Class G VFR Weather Minimums

Special VFR Rules

  • Must have an ATC Clearance (pilot requested, cannot be assigned by ATC).

  • Must remain clear of clouds.

  • Flight visibility must be at least 1 SM.

  • To takeoff, ground visibility must be at least 1 SM.

  • Special VFR at Night = Pilot and plane must be Instrument Rated and Equipped.

Aircraft Speed Limits

Other Airspace Areas



Atmospheric Composition

78% Nitrogen and 21% Oxygen.

Global Circulation Pattern

  • Air at the Poles cools and sinks then flows toward the Equator.

  • Air at the Equator heats and rises and flows toward the Poles.

Coriolis Force

The spinning of the Earth deflects the airflow in the Global Circulation Pattern.

  • Northern Hemisphere = Air deflected to the Right.

  • Southern Hemisphere = Air deflected to the Left.

  • Within 2,000’ of the surface = Friction slows air speed and deflects its direction.

Standard Atmosphere

Standard Pressure at Sea Level = 29.92.

  • Decreases 1 inch per 1,000’ of altitude gain.

Standard Temperature at Sea Level = 15C.

  • Decreases 2C per 1,000’ of altitude gain.

Wind and Currents

  • Horizontally moving air = Wind.

  • Vertically moving air = Convection.

  • High Pressure Systems = Air flows clockwise, downward, and outward.

  • Low Pressure Systems = Air flows counterclockwise, inward, and upward.

Windshear and Microbursts

  • Windshear = A sudden drastic change in wind direction or velocity over a short distance.

  • Low Level Windshear (LLWS) = Windshear that occurs near the surface.

  • Microburst = The most severe type of Windshear.

    • Lifespan = 5-15 minutes.

    • Downdraft Strength = Up to 6,000 FPM.

    • Headwind Losses = 30-90 knots.

Atmospheric Stability


Occur when air temperature increases with an increase in altitude (up to a certain point, which is the top of the inversion layer).

Fog Types

Cloud Families

Front Types

Stages of a Thunderstorm

Types of Icing



Weather Briefings

Can be obtained by calling 1(800) WX-BRIEF.



  • METAR stands for: Aviation Routine Weather Report.

  • Current surface weather observations.

  • Updated hourly.


  • TAF stands for: Terminal Aerodrome Forecast.

  • Forecasted weather for a 5 NM radius around airport.

  • Issued 4 times per day at: 0000Z, 0600Z, 1200Z, 1800Z.


  • Stands for: Pilot Reports.

  • Weather conditions reported by pilots in flight.


  • AIRMETs = Significant weather reports pertinent to smaller aircraft.

  • SIGMETs = Significant weather reports pertinent to all aircraft.

Winds and Temperatures Aloft

  • Give wind directions, velocities, and temperature for particular altitudes.

  • Any code beginning with a 6 or higher indicates winds are > 100 knots at that altitude.

Low Level Prognostic Charts

  • Forecasted weather covering the 48 Contiguous United States from the Surface to 48,000’ MSL.

  • They are issued 4 times daily at: 0000Z, 0600Z, 1200Z, 1800Z.

Radar Summary vs Satellite Imagery Charts



Training Requirement

  • A High Altitude Endorsement is needed to PIC an aircraft with a Service Ceiling or Maximum Operating Altitude above 25,000’ MSL.

Supplemental Oxygen Use Requirements

Types of Supplemental Oxygen

Types of Decompression

Times of Useful Consciousness



Types of VORs

  • VOR = Very High Frequency Omnidirectional Range

  • VOR/DME = VOR with Distance Measuring Equipment (DME)

  • VORTAC = VOR with TACAN (military use only)

VOR Service Volumes

  • Line of sight.


  • OBS = Omnibearing Selector

  • CDI = Course Deflection Indicator

  • Cone of Confusion = Area near the VOR where the signal is unreliable

  • Reverse Sensing = Pilot induced error giving erroneous information

Time and Distance Calculations

  • Time in Seconds between Bearings/Degrees of Bearing Change = Minutes to the Station

Types of VOR Checks

Signing off a VOR Check

  • Use the acronym “SLED.”

  • Can be signed off by a pilot.

    • S = Signature

    • L = Location

    • E = Error Amount

    • D = Date



DME Basics

  • DME = Distance Measuring Equipment

Slant Range Distance

  • Less accurate when close to the VOR and at Higher Altitudes.

  • More accurate when further from VOR and at Lower Altitudes.

Straight Line Distance

  • GPS distance is given in “Straight Line Distance” and does not have the inherent errors of “Slant Range Distance.”



The Numbers

  • 24 (or more) Satellites in Orbit.

  • They orbit around 6 Orbital Planes.

Information Relayed by GPS Satellites

  1. ID (name/number)

  2. Position (lat/long)

  3. Time Code

Number of Satellites Required


  • RAIM = Receiver Autonomous Integrity Monitoring

  • FDE = Fault Detection and Exclusion

GPS Sensitivity Modes


  • WAAS = Wide Area Augmentation System

  • LAAS = Local Area Augmentation System



Compass Errors

Remember the acronym “VDMONA.”

Timed Turns using Magnetic Compass

  • Use Timed Turns when you can see the heading (on the compass face) that you desire to turn to.

  • Count the tick marks between current heading and desired heading and multiply by 3. This is how many seconds you should turn.

    • Tick Marks X 3 = Seconds to Turn.

  • Timed Turns should be performed at: Half-Standard Rate.

Compass Turns

  • Use Compass Turns when you cannot see the heading (on the compass face) that you desire to turn to.

  • We will use the acronym “UNOS” for Under and Over Shooting our headings.



Pitot Static Instruments

Airspeed Indicator Diagram

Altimeter Diagram

Vertical Speed Indicator Diagram

Clogged Pitot-Tube Indications

Clogged Static Port Indications

Indications when Using Alternate Static Source

If the windows and vents are closed:



Instruments Operated by Gyroscopes

Vacuum System Diagram

Gyroscopic Principles

  • Rigidity in Space = A gyroscope resists movement due to its rotational velocity.

  • Precession = When a force is applied to a spinning gyroscope, it will be manifested 90 degrees ahead of the applied force in the direction of rotation.



Types of Departure Procedures

  1. Obstacle Departure Procedure (ODP) = Climbs the pilot up to a safe altitude within the vicinity of the airport.

  2. Standard Instrument Departure (SID) = Climbs the pilot on a course (North, East, South, West, etc.)

Part 91 Standard Takeoff Minimums

  1. Minimum Visibility = None.

  2. Minimum Climb Gradient = 200 FPNM.

Converting FPNM to FPM

  • (Groundspeed X FPNM)/60 = FPM

Climbing in Visual Conditions (VCOA)

If a pilot cannot meet the minimum climb gradient required for a departure, he/she may still be able to depart if they can meet the “Climb in Visual Conditions (VCOA)” requirements listed on the Departure Chart.

Textual Descriptions vs Graphical Depictions

  • Textual Description = Mandatory.

  • Graphical Depiction = Optional.



Alternate Airport Requirements

Remember the “1, 2, 3 Rule.”

Standard Alternate Minimums

IFR Fuel Requirements

  • Without an Alternate Airport = Destination + 45 minutes.

  • With an Alternate Airport = Destination + Alternate + 45 minutes.



IFR Low Altitude En-Route Charts

  • These charts are established across the United States at flight altitude below 18,000’ MSL.

IFR Cruising Altitudes

Instrument En-Route Altitudes

Types of Waypoints

VOR Changeover Points

  1. Halfway between each VOR.

  2. If there is a bend in the airway.

  3. Where the changeover symbol dictates.

ATC Reporting Points

  • Compulsory Points = Reports must be made to ATC when not in Radar Contact.

  • Non-Compulsory Points = ATC may request pilots to make reports at these points.

Cruise Clearances

Allow the pilot to select their cruising altitude between the MEA and the ATC assigned cruising altitude. Also clears pilots for their desired Instrument Approach at the Destination Airport.

VFR On Top Procedures

  • Used to fly IFR through the clouds and then continue VFR on Top.

  • Pilots are responsible for their own traffic separation.

  • Must maintain appropriate VFR Cruising Altitudes.

  • Must comply with all Instrument Flight Rules.

  • Must comply with VFR Visibility and Cloud Clearance Requirements.

  • Advise ATC of any altitude changes.

Mandatory Reports to ATC

Remember the acronym “MATHCALLS.”

  • M = Missed approach.

  • A = Altitude changes when VFR on Top.

  • T = True airspeed change of +/-10 KIAS or 5%.

  • H = Holding (entering and exiting).

  • C = Cannot maintain 500 FPM climb or descent.

  • A = Altitude and time at the Holding Fix.

  • L = Leaving an assigned altitude.

  • L = Loss of communication or navigation equipment.

  • S = Safety of flight issues.

Items to Include in Reports to ATC

Remember the acronym “IPTANES.”

  • I = ID (tail number).

  • P = Position.

  • T = Time.

  • A = Altitude.

  • N = Next fix.

  • E = ETA at the next fix.

  • S = Supplemental information.



Selecting the Route to Fly

If Lost Comms is experienced in VFR Conditions or VFR Conditions are encountered anytime after Lost Comms = Remain in VFR Conditions and proceed to the nearest suitable airport for landing.

If Lost Comms is experienced in IFR conditions, follow these steps in the order listed. Remember the acronym “AVEF.”

Selecting the Altitude to Fly

If Lost Comms is experienced in IFR conditions, select the highest of each of the altitudes listed below for each new route segment. Remember the acronym “MEA.”

  • M = Minimum Enroute Altitude (MEA).

  • E = Expected Altitude.

  • A = Assigned Altitude.

Arrival at the Clearance Limit - With an EFC Time

When the Clearance Limit is a Waypoint from with an Instrument Approach begins:

Arrival at the Clearance Limit - Without an EFC Time

When the Clearance Limit is a Waypoint from with an Instrument Approach begins:

Arrival at the Clearance Limit - With an EFC Time

When the Clearance Limit is not a Waypoint from with an Instrument Approach begins:

Arrival at the Clearance Limit - Without an EFC Time

When the Clearance Limit is not a Waypoint from with an Instrument Approach begins:



Precision vs Non-Precision Approaches

Localizer Service Volumes

  • 35 degrees each side of Runway Centerline up to 10 NM.

  • 10 degrees each side of Runway Centerline up to 18 NM.

Localizer Course Widths

  • The course width of a Localizer (when it goes full deflection) will vary based on the Length of the Runway it serves.

  • Localizer signals are set at 700’ wide at the Approach End of the Runway.

    • Longer Runways = Narrower course widths (3-4 degrees).

    • Shorter Runways = Wider course widths (5-6 degrees).

Glideslope Service Volumes

  • 0.7 degrees above and below center up to 10 NM.

Marker Beacon Indications

LPV and LNAV/VNAV Approaches

  • Lateral and Vertical Guidance provided by GPS Satellites.

Localizer Back Course Approaches

LDA Approaches

LDA stands for “Localizer Type Directional Aid.”

SDF Approaches

SDF stands for “Simplified Directional Facility.”

Other Non-Precision Approaches

  • VOR Approach = Utilize VOR radials to guide pilot to the runway.

  • RNAV Approach = Utilize GPS satellites to guide pilot to the runway.

  • PAR Approach = ATC gives lateral and vertical guidance to the pilot.

  • ASR Approach = ATC gives lateral guidance to the pilot.

  • No Gyro Approach = ATC gives lateral guidance to the pilot. Requested by pilot if he/she has gyroscopic instrument failure(s).

  • Visual Approach = Pilot lands under visual conditions. Pilot must have the airport or preceding aircraft in sight. Can be assigned by ATC.

  • Contact Approach = Pilot’s familiar with the area may follow known landmarks to approach and land at airport. Must have 1 SM visibility and be able to avoid clouds. Must be requested by the pilot (cannot be assigned by ATC).



Visual Descent Point (VDP)

  • Allows pilots enough time to identify the runway environment and make safe/normal descent maneuvers to landing. If you do not have the runway in sight at the VDP you make the decision to execute the Missed Approach. However, you cannot begin the Missed Approach Procedure at the VDP. You must wait until you arrive at the Missed Approach Point (MAP).

  • VDPs only apply to Non-Precision Approaches, they are not used in conjunction with Precision Approaches.

  • If a VDP is not depicted on the approach plate, you can figure it with the following equation:

    • HAT (Height Above Touchdown)/300 = VDP Distance.

Aircraft Approach Categories

DA vs MDA vs Circling Approach

Requirements to Descend Below DA or MDA

  1. Aircraft is in a position to descend and land using normal descent rates and maneuvers.

  2. Flight visibility must be greater than or equal to what is prescribed for the approach.

  3. Pilot must have at least one of the following in sight:

    1. The Threshold.

    2. The Threshold Markings.

    3. The Threshold Lights.

    4. The Runway.

    5. The Runway Markings.

    6. The Runway Lights.

    7. The Touchdown Zone.

    8. The Touchdown Zone Markings.

    9. The Touchdown Zone Lights.

    10. The Visual Glideslope Indicator.

    11. The Runway End Identifier Lights (REIL).

    12. The Approach Light System (ALS).

Note: If the pilot sees only the Approach Light System, he/she may descend to 100’ above the Touchdown Zone Elevation and then must see one of the elements above.


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