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Preparing for the Instrument Checkride

Preparing for the Instrument Checkride
Instrument Checkride Preparation: A complete guide to master your flying skills in precision, communication and strategic thinking.
Instrument Checkride Preparation: A complete guide to master your flying skills in precision, communication and strategic thinking.

Preparing for the Instrument Checkride

By Brandon Martini, COO

In-depth Preparation for the Instrument Checkride


The instrument checkride is a pivotal moment in a pilot’s career, offering the capability to fly through clouds and in low visibility conditions. This checkride is far from a straightforward test; it is a rigorous evaluation of a pilot’s ability to manage an aircraft solely by instruments, without reliance on visual cues from the outside environment. Here’s an in-depth guide to help you prepare effectively and ensure you’re ready to navigate this challenging assessment.

Understanding the Instrument Checkride

The instrument checkride assesses your capability to operate an aircraft under instrument flight rules (IFR), which are regulations and procedures a pilot follows when flying without outside visual reference. Typically, it involves several complex components:

  1. Multiple Approaches: You’ll be required to execute various instrument approaches, which are procedures for landing an aircraft based solely on instruments, typically in poor weather conditions where visibility is minimal.

  2. Hood Time: This is practice time where you wear a view-limiting device to simulate instrument-only flying conditions. It tests your ability to fly and navigate using only the instruments on the aircraft’s dashboard.

  3. Mastery Over Unseen Forces: Pilots must demonstrate they can understand and react to the data from the instruments, which indicate the aircraft’s speed, altitude, orientation, and position relative to the earth’s surface — all without seeing outside.

Key Areas to Focus on for Preparation

To ensure you are thoroughly prepared for your instrument checkride, focus on the following key areas:

  1. Precision in Approaches: Accuracy is crucial. Each approach must be conducted meticulously because, in real-world zero-visibility conditions, these maneuvers can be lifesaving. Practice precision in following the glide slope, localizer, and GPS routes during different approach procedures.
    1. Glide slopeprovides vertical guidance for aircraft during approach and landing, helps maintain correct altitude, ensuring a smooth landing by avoiding obstacles.
    2. Localizer – Offers horizontal guidance to align aircraft with the centerline of the runway, ensures precise runway alignment, crucial in poor visibility where visual cues are minimal.
    3. GPS Routes – Uses satellite technology for precise navigation during en route, approach, and landing phases. Allows for accurate navigation at airports without ILS and supports all-weather operations, enhancing safety and efficiency.
  2. Comfort Under the Hood: Since you’ll need to be adept at flying without any external visual references, getting comfortable under the hood is essential. This practice will help you trust your instruments and make precise maneuvers based solely on the readings you receive, which can be quite disorienting at first.
  3. ATC Communications: Clear and precise communication with Air Traffic Control (ATC) is vital. Understanding how to communicate effectively under IFR conditions can prevent misunderstandings and ensure safety. You should know how to read back clearances, report your positions, and understand the instructions and clearances given by ATC.
  4. Anticipate and Strategize: Beyond following procedures and communicating with ATC, you must develop the ability to anticipate issues and strategize appropriately. Weather conditions can change rapidly, and other unexpected challenges can arise. Learning to think ahead and prepare for various scenarios is crucial.
  5. Simulator Practice: Utilize flight simulators to hone your skills. Simulators can mimic a wide range of conditions and scenarios that you might not frequently encounter in actual flight training. More practice in simulated IFR conditions can build your confidence and competence.
  6. Study Sessions with Instructors: Regular sessions with your flight instructor to go over the finer points of IFR flying, regulations, and emergency procedures are invaluable. An experienced instructor can provide insights and tips that are crucial for passing the checkride.


The instrument checkride is a challenging yet incredibly rewarding milestone. It tests a pilot’s ability to fly safely under conditions where reliance on visual cues is not possible. By focusing on precision, effective communication, and strategic thinking, you can enhance your skills and confidence to handle complex and demanding flying conditions. Remember, every aspect of this checkride is designed not just to test your skills but to prepare you for the real-world demands of instrument flying. With thorough preparation, you can approach your checkride with the confidence needed to succeed and ultimately enjoy the freedom and responsibilities of an instrument-rated pilot.

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