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Is IR rating worth if you only fly in the UK?


This question might seem a bit random but I would love to know your opinions: imagine you only fly in the U.K. How useful your IR rating would be? Would your fly mostly IFR? Or would you find yourself using it more often on international flights?

I’m planning to start my IR, but my lack of experience doesn’t allow me to understand how useful it will be versus IR (R) if you only fly in the UK.

Your thought would be much appreciated.

EGMA, United Kingdom

The additional privileges you gain with a full IR are access to Class A airways. In practice, this is relatively much less useful if flying only in the UK. I’ve found it helpful on a few trips flying north/south, eg overhead Manchester and transiting the Glasgow/Edinburgh airspace which otherwise you’d have to circumvent at low level. Even flying into Isle of Man, although I filed a full IFR flight plan it was almost entirely in Class D and it was only in the airways near Liverpool that truly required a full IR. That said, once you are “in the system” on a full IFR flight plan, it can be a lot more relaxing as you are passed seamlessly between controllers. This sometimes happens on IR(R) long distance flights (especially on quieter, poorer weather days when controllers are maybe a little less busy) but can’t be expected universally.

The second benefit is additional IFR training. Some will argue there is little practical additional value or that they didn’t learn much upgrading from IR(R) to IR, but clearly you do sharpen up a lot. It will depend on how thorough your IR(R) training was. The IR theory has been considerably reduced in scope (and so is more relevant). It’s not trivial and does require effort to pass, but is much more accessible and achievable than before.

A key reason for choosing between IR(R) and IR will be the type of aircraft you have access to and your budget for longer distance trips. If your longer term goal is to do that (say with a shared touring aircraft), then it’s worth starting on the journey. The CB-IR route allows you to build up via an IR(R) and count the hours and experience gained. Then take the theory course and somewhere typically between 10-20 hours at an ATO to achieve the required standard and pass the skill test.

FlyerDavidUK, PPL & IR Instructor
EGBJ, United Kingdom

The two differences are:

  • Having access to Class A airspace (airways)
  • Take-off and landing minima (IR(R) needs a visibility of 1500m to do either)

It is much safer and easier to be able to fly on airways. It also takes less planning. However, it generally involves going higher, and having a better equipped and better performance aircraft.

The minima issue is a matter of taste.

Some people say that they wouldn’t fly an SEP when the vis is less than 1500m, for fear of what would happen in the event of an engine failure.

Others are not overly concerned by this (and history does not have many examples of it being an issue).

I find that I need to take-off or land in sub 1500m maybe ten times a year, so it depends how concerned you are about despatch rates. If you mainly fly to go to the beach it’s not an issue, if you need to get to business meetings then maybe more so.

The IR requires greater theoretical knowledge. Your attitude to that is again personal. You can always learn more than the minimum, but some people need the discipline of an exam to make them do so.

The IR also requires more training and a higher level of testing, but, again, you can always do more training on the IR(R) and get to the same standard, if you wish.

Finally, the IR must be renewed annually, the IR(R) every 25 months, but my view is that anyone using the skills for real should get refresher training more often than that. Personally I do an IR reval every 6 months. 25 months is far too long.

EGKB Biggin Hill

By the way, once you get the full IR, you’ll be glad to be able to fly to near Europe as well. Apart from anything else, the rules vary far less between countries, particularly if you go to IFR destinations.

You can plan an IFR flight to anywhere in Europe in about five minutes (ten if you need handling/slots), whereas VFR, even with SkyDemon, it can take a fair bit longer.

EGKB Biggin Hill
Timothy, David, thank you so much for your insights. Your answers do shine some light into an area I don’t know much about.

It is hard to find a balance between time/financial commitment and the benefit you get vs what you actually need.

EGMA, United Kingdom

If I really only flew in the UK, and only privately, I would probably only get the IMC rating. But yes, why would you only fly in the UK? I mean, I understand why Italian or Frech pilots who don’t speak proper English don’t leave their country… but being from the UK, and actually the southern UK, and flying a certified aircraft… that doesn’t make much sense, unless I am missing some essential restriction.

Mainz (EDFZ), Germany

boscomantico wrote:

that doesn’t make much sense, unless I am missing some essential restriction.

You are right :) Probably lack of confidence (I am still quite a recent PPL).

If time/money was no issue, I would aim for a full IR. But my gut feeling tells me the restricted IR would do the job most of the times, at a much lower cost… Probably the right path is 1) IR restricted and then if I feel I need more, 2) CBIR…

EGMA, United Kingdom

Fernando wrote:

Probably lack of confidence (I am still quite a recent PPL).

I do a fair deal of mentoring, getting people to push the envelope a little, if that helps. I’d be happy to accompany you on either an IFR flight (outside or inside controlled airspace) or a VFR hop over to France or Belgium, if it would help you get your thoughts in order.

Perhaps you would like to compare EGSC – EBOS on airways to VFR? Or compare either of those to going to Bournemouth IFR OCAS?

No charge, but you buy lunch

Just PM me and we’ll sort something out.

EGKB Biggin Hill

You should take him up on it. Timothy is an IRI and does a huge amount to further GA. You will have a great time and learn a lot from him!

EGCJ, United Kingdom

Timothy wrote:

you buy lunch

Timothy, that is a very generous offer. Thank you so much! Definitively, it would help me understanding the differences and what is the best option. I will contact you directly. Regarding the lunch, let’s go for a 3 course meal :)

EGMA, United Kingdom
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