Updated: Dec 8, 2020

Instrument Recency and Currency Lesson by wifiCFI

Logging Instrument Time

When can a pilot log instrument time?

FAR 61.51(g)(1): A person may log instrument time only for that flight time when the person operates the aircraft solely by reference to instruments under actual or simulated instrument flight conditions.

This means a pilot must be in Actual or Simulated Instrument Conditions.

Actual Instrument Conditions:

Any flying that is done in weather conditions less than VFR (VMC).

This is considered: IFR (IMC)

IFR = Instrument Flight Rules

IMC = Instrument Meteorological Conditions

Simulated Instrument Conditions:

This flying can be accomplished in VMC via the use of a View Limiting Device (foggles).

For training, simulated instrument training must be accomplished with a qualified pilot at the cockpit controls.

When can a flight instructor log instrument time?

FAR 61.51(g)(2): An authorized instructor may log instrument time when conducting instrument flight instruction in actual instrument conditions.

Must be done in Actual Instrument Conditions (less than VFR) for the flight instructor.

To Act as PIC in IFR Conditions

What must a pilot do in order to act as PIC in IFR Conditions?

The pilot must have a current medical certificate and current instrument rating.

What recency requirements must also be met in order to act as PIC in IFR Conditions?

FAR 61.57(c): Within the last 6 months the pilot must have:

Shot 6 Instrument Approaches with Holding, Intercepting, and Tracking.


This is in addition to the requirement to have a current flight review to act as PIC of any aircraft.

If a pilot wishes to carry passengers, he/she must also have their 3 takeoffs and landings in the same category and class in the preceding 90 days.

There is some confusion regarding the “Holds” required for IFR PIC Recency. 

While a pilot must have shot 6 approaches in the last 6 months, he/she must have only done at least 1 Hold!

Many times this instrument recency may be accomplished in an airplane or appropriate flight training device (simulator).

What happens if a pilot does not have 6 approaches and a hold in the last 6 months?

The pilot cannot act as PIC on an IFR flight until he/she accomplishes the necessary approaches and/or hold.

The pilot is granted a 6 month grace period to get current.

Remember 666 for Instrument Currency:

Within the last 6 months,

The pilot has accomplished 6 approaches.

If this is not completed, the pilot is awarded a 6 month grace period to get current.

Remember, this is a rolling 6 month timeframe.

Think of it like this, a pilot must always have 6 approaches and 1 hold in his/her pocket to act as PIC on an IFR flight. 

Each approach and hold is only valid for 6 months and then it expires.


A pilot accomplishes:

2 Instrument Approaches in January,

2 Instrument Approaches and a Hold in February,

1 Instrument Approach in March, and

1 Instrument Approach in May

For this example, let’s say the current Month is May.

If our pilot did not complete any approaches in June or July, then he/she would no longer be current to act as PIC on an IFR flight beginning in August. This is because the 2 approaches he/she accomplished in January would expire at the end of July.

Hence, on August 1st, our pilot would no longer be able to act as PIC on an IFR flight.

However, if he/she accomplished 2 more instrument approaches in August, then he/she would be current until September 1st.

At which time, the 2 approaches and hold from February would expire.

6 Month Grace Period to get Current

In the example above, the pilot would not be current to act as PIC on an IFR flight beginning August 1st.

However, the FAA grants a 6 month grace period for the pilot to get the required approaches and hold to get current.

In this scenario, the pilot would have until the end of January the following year to acquire the missing approaches and/or hold.

If the pilot does not acquire the missing approaches and/or hold within the 6 month grace period, he/she would then need to complete an IPC (Instrument Proficiency Check) prior to being able to act as PIC on an IFR flight.

In this scenario, an IPC would be required after February 1st of the following year to re-instate instrument currency.

IPC (Instrument Proficiency Check)

What is an IPC?

An IPC (Instrument Proficiency Check) is required for a pilot wishing to act as PIC on an IFR flight after that pilot’s 6 month currency grace period has lapsed.

An IPC is essentially an instrument checkride with some differences:

First, a pilot’s record is not affected if he/she fails an IPC.

He/she must simply get more training until the examiner/CFII is comfortable signing the pilot off.

Second, an IPC may be given by:

A DPE (Designated Pilot Examiner) or

A CFII (CFI with Instrument Privileges).

After completing an IPC, the pilot would then qualify to act as PIC on an IFR flight.

How can a pilot avoid the need to get an IPC?

Simple! Keep your Instrument Recency current.

Do not extend outside the FAA’s 6 month grace period.

FAA Sources Used for this Lesson

Federal Aviation Regulations Part 61

where aviation comes to study

worldwide site members: 27,532