Instrument Pilot Course

  • 10 Ground Chapters
  • 83 Lessons
  • Written test prep: Earn your FAA endorsement.
  • Mock oral exam: Prep for your checkride.
  • Scenarios: Prepare for real-world flying.
Get Ground School
iPhone and iPad running the Ground School app showing the Instrument Pilot course

This course suits new instrument pilots and already-rated instrument pilots looking to stay proficient. The Ground chapters contain all the knowledge for the course and prepares you for the FAA Instrument Airplane written exam. You can take unlimited practice tests and receive an FAA endorsement once you are proficient. The checkride prep section and mock oral exam prepares you for the actual checkride or any upcoming Instrument Proficiency Check. The Flight chapters (under construction) contain all the skills needed to pass an Instrument checkride, proficiency check, or maintain proficiency.

Ground Chapters

Chapter 1: Instrument Flight

Introduction to Instrument Flying

The ability to depart an airport, enter the clouds, and emerge in front of a distant runway is a remarkable thing. Welcome to your journey as an instrument pilot.

Basic Attitude Instrument Flying

Instrument flying starts with learning to control the airplane solely by reference to flight instruments. This is basic attitude instrument flying.

Departure Procedures

Every instrument flight has a departure procedure, even if it's a standard climb gradient in any direction. Let's dive into the first phase of an instrument flight.

Enroute Procedures

The largest portion of an IFR flight is the en route phase. It's important to understand the unique aspects of the en route phase of flight.

Arrival & Approach Procedures

While standard arrival procedures are less common for light airplanes than large airplanes, you may encounter them. We will cover approaches later in the course, but here we’ll review aspects of routing to the initial approach.

Chapter 2: Instruments and Systems

The Airspeed Indicator

Airspeed is our lifeblood. This lesson covers how the instrument works, specific "V" speeds, and how to convert some of them for weight.

Basic Altimetry

The altimeter is an instrument that measures the pressure of the air around you and indicates this as a number that represents altitude.

Turn Indicators / Coordinators

Although there are some variations in the type, there is always an instrument in the airplane that measures the rate of heading change through the horizon.

The Vertical Speed Indicator

The Vertical Speed Indicator provides information about the initial trend and then, a moment later, the rate of climb or descent. How it accomplishes this is quite remarkable.

Pitot/Static System

The Pitot/Static system uses the air pressure to provide information to your airspeed indicator, altimeter, and vertical speed indicator. It's important to understand how this simple system works.

Pitot/Static Icing, Errors, and Blockages

As an instrument pilot, it's extremely important that you recognize signs of blockages in the Pitot-Static system and know what to expect from your flight instruments.

The Vacuum System

This lesson describes common engine-driven vacuum systems that power some of the airplane's gyroscopic instruments.

The Electrical System

In airplanes the electrical system is independent from the ignition system. It is important to understand the basic elements.

De-icing/Anti-Icing Systems

Learn the essentials of aircraft de-ice and anti-ice systems! We’ll cover how these systems operate and protect our aircraft’s aerodynamic surfaces.

Get the Ground School app to access all this content and more.

Get Ground School

Chapter 3: Regulations

Federal Regulations

This lesson reviews the structure of the regulations that govern aviation in the United States. Understanding this structure will help you when you need to find the answer to a regulation question.

Basic Med

This lesson covers the rules surrounding "Basic Med", which is an option for healthy pilots if they've held an aviation medical at any point after July 14, 2006.

Part 91 Flight Rules

This lesson looks at 14 CFR 91 Subpart B, which defines all of the flight rules that pilots must adhere to while in the US airspace.

IFR Equipment

This lesson looks at Subparts C and E of 14 CFR 91, which prescribes all of the equipment that is required on aircraft operating in the National Airspace System.

Part 61 For IFR

This lesson will look at the regulations in 14 CFR Part 61 that apply specifically to the instrument pilot.

Operations Below the DA/MDA

14 CFR 91.175 is an important regulation because it defines the requirements that must be met to continue an approach below the DA/MDA. You must be familiar with this regulation to fly under IFR.

Lost Communication Procedures

14 CFR 91.185 is the regulation that prescribes the actions you should take if you lose communication with ATC. In this lesson, you will learn the steps to follow should you find yourself in this situation.

Required IFR Reports

From the student's perspective, the long list of required IFR reports is rather arbitrary, yet it's extremely important. The best device I've found to memorize and be able to recall this list is "500 WEST CHICKEN".

Chapter 4: Weather

Air Masses and Fronts

Air Masses have specific properties. They can be warm, cold, low pressure, or high, and as they interact around the Earth, the zones where they interact are called fronts. Understanding this is central to understanding the big weather picture.

Atmospheric Stability

When we talk about atmospheric stability, we are referring to the stability of the air vertically; would a parcel of air have a tendency to rise and if so, how fast and how far?


Thunderstorms are one of the biggest weather hazards to pilots. How they form is quite simple. Understanding this process will help you avoid them.

Low-Level Wind Shear

Low-level windshear has been identified as a contributing factor in several significant incidents, as documented by flight data recorders. Windshear is characterized as a shift in wind direction and/or speed occurring over a relatively short distance in the atmosphere.

Relative Humidity and Dew Point

Relative Humidity and Dew Point are important concepts in understanding water in the atmosphere and how and when it condenses into clouds and fog.


Understanding where and when fog might form will help you make better weather decisions. It's pretty simple. In this lesson, you learn the different types of fog and how they form.


Icing is one of the major hazards of instrument flight. Knowing how and where ice forms is critical to operational safety.


Learning to read the clouds is an important skill for a pilot. In this lesson, you begin to develop that skill by learning different cloud types and which types of systems they are associated with.

Temperature Inversions

Temperature Inversions are anomalies that occur in the atmosphere and create some unique and predictable weather conditions.

Chapter 5: Weather Sources


Weather Services describes the products pilots use to understand the weather. You should be aware of how to find this information regardless of what product you use.

Weather Briefings

Establishing a ritual around gathering weather information is critical to your safety. In this lesson, we review the 3 types of briefings.

Decoding METARs

In this lesson, you will learn to decode hourly routine aviation weather reports known as METARs (said "MEE-TAR").

Decoding TAFs

In this lesson, you will learn to decode hourly routine aviation 24-hour weather forecasts known as Terminal Area Forecast or TAF.

Understanding Radar

Radar can provide valuable information. It is critical, however, that you understand it's limitations.

Graphic Weather Products

It is important that you understand the symbology used on graphic weather products.

Weather Warnings

It is important that you know how to interpret in-flight weather warnings. This lesson covers the four types you might encounter.

Winds and Temperatures Aloft

Winds Aloft play a critical role in determining the distance we can fly. It's important to make sure you understand how to read that information.

Notices To Air Missions

NOTAMs are a systematic way of getting very important information to the pilot in command of a flight. It is critical you understand them and get them systematically.

Decoding PIREPs

In this lesson you will learn to decode pilot weather reports, called PIREPs.

Using the Skew-T

The Skew-T chart can be a powerful tool to get information about where ice might be encountered.

Get the Ground School app to access all this content and more.

Get Ground School

Chapter 6: IFR Charts and Publications

Introduction to Charts & Publications

Content is essential and a challenge we will happily accept when presenting this IFR material. This is a quick introduction to the following chapter.

The Low Altitude Enroute Chart

The Low Altitude Enroute Chart is published every 56 days and covers the low altitude route structure of the United States National Airspace from 1,000 feet up to but not including 18,000 feet.

Instrument Departure Procedure (DP) Charts

Many airports have standard charted departure procedures (DPs) that are used to transition IFR traffic from the airport to the en route environment. This lesson covers the essential symbols and features of DP charts.

Standard Instrument Arrival Route (STAR) Charts

Many airports have Standard Instrument Arrival Routes (STARs) that are used to transition IFR traffic from the en route environment to an instrument approach procedure. This lesson covers the essential symbols and features of STAR charts.

Introduction to Approach Charts

Instrument Approach Procedure (IAP) Charts are probably the most frequently used publication during IFR flying. Here We will provide an introduction to these charts and an overview of the two lessons covering approach charts in detail.

Instrument Approach Charts - Briefing and Minimums

Terminal Approach Procedures are published every 56 days containing all Instrument Approach Charts. These provide the information required to land safely in low visibility conditions. This lesson covers an introduction to IAPs and sections essential to an approach briefing.

Approach (IAP) Charts - Plan and Profile Views

This lesson looks at the two sections of Instrument Approach Procedure (IAP) charts that provide essential lateral and vertical navigation information for the approach procedure: The Plan view and the Profile view.

The Chart Supplement

The Chart Supplement is published every 56 days and was formerly called the Airport / Facility Directory, or AFD. This book contains essential information.

The Chart Supplement - IFR Specifics

This lesson covers contents of the Chart Supplement that are specific to IFR flying.

Chapter 7: Radio Navigation

Reviewing VORs

This lesson covers the basic concepts of the Very High Omni Range that are a pre-requisite to instrument training. You covered this material during Private training but it's important to review.

VOR Minimum Operational Network

For aircraft that do not carry GPS or DME, the FAA is retaining a limited network of VORs, called the VOR Minimum Operational Network, to provide a basic conventional navigation service for operators to use if GNSS becomes unavailable.

VOR for IFR Operations

The VOR still serves an essential role in the low-altitude national airspace system.

NDB for IFR Operations

NDBs are still widely used in some countries, and are an important part of the instrument pilot's toolkit.

Understanding GPS

Global Positioning System is a revolutionary satellite-based navigation system that has transformed the way pilots navigate in the sky. By the end of this lesson, you'll have a solid understanding of GPS; let's get started...

GPS for IFR Operations

GPS is the most prevalent technology in today's cockpit and provides a very accurate indication of aircraft position and speed. Dive deeper than "direct to" and understand how to operate beyond following the magenta line.

Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) Overview

The Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) is a navigation system comprising satellites and ground stations that improve the accuracy of the Global Positioning System (GPS).

Chapter 8: Approaches, Arcs, and Holds

Precision Approaches

Precision Approaches are the most precise approach and will allow you to land in the lowest possible weather conditions. They always have vertical guidance and end with an approach lighting system and a runway with precision markings.

Instrument Landing System (ILS)

The ILS is one of the most common approaches utilized for IFR operations. This lesson takes a deeper dive into how ILS approaches are flown and some of the errors associated with them.

Nonprecision Approaches

Nonprecision approaches are, by definition, usually less precise. Traditional nonprecision approaches have no vertical guidance. However, GPS technology is changing all of that to some extent.

VOR Approaches

The VOR approach is perhaps one of the easiest approaches to fly and requires minimal extra equipment. This lesson dives into the basics of flying a VOR approach and provides an example of how it can be used.

Localizer Approaches

LOC approaches are the bread-and-butter for an airfield in mountainous terrain—one without the required climb gradient for an ILS or when the glide slope is inop. We'll review how to set up and execute a LOC-only approach to touchdown safely.

RNAV / GPS Approaches

Although flown similarly to a precision or non-precision approach, RNAV (GPS) Approaches are their own category; APV. This lesson dives into GPS approaches and some of the nuances associated with them.

Circling Approaches

Circling approaches are approaches that are not directly aligned with any runway and require maneuvering upon the completion of the approach.

Missed Approaches

Missed approaches are approaches that cannot be completed. The missed approach procedure guides the pilot safely back to altitude.

Visual Approaches

A visual approach is an IFR approach that relies on visual contact with the runway or the preceding airplane that has visual contact with the runway.

Holding Patterns

Holding patterns are used to kill time in the air. The need to kill time in the air can occur for various reasons but the holding procedures remain the same.

Procedure Turn Course Reversals

Course reversals are integral to flying in non-radar environments. We'll learn the different types of turns and dive into the intricacies of flying full approach procedures, delaying commencing an approach, or aligning the aircraft towards the runway.

DME Arcs

Knowing how to fly an arc to a final approach course is a critical maneuver to master. This is used in lieu of flying a full procedure and just another way for ATC to sequence aircraft.

Contact Approaches

A contact approach allows a pilot in visual contact with the ground to follow known terrain features to the airport. Contact approaches can only be flown into airports that already have an instrument approach procedure available.

Get the Ground School app to access all this content and more.

Get Ground School

Chapter 9: ATC and IFR Clearances

Filing IFR Flight Plans

In order to fly IFR, you need to file a flight plan and receive a clearance. There are a couple different ways to do this, which we'll discuss in this lesson.

IFR Clearances

The IFR clearance is the backbone of any IFR flight. It is your route from departure to destination and your backup plan in a lost communication situation.

Receiving Your IFR Clearance

You will either receive your IFR clearance from the air traffic control tower at your airport or, if there is none, from the TRACON facility by phone.

Cruise Clearance

An IFR cruise clearance allows a pilot to choose the altitude at which they'd like to operate within the bounds of the ATC clearance. Pilots are still required to fly an IFR route.


VFR-On-Top is an IFR clearance that allows a pilot to fly an IFR route while choosing VFR altitudes. Pilots are free to fly at whatever VFR altitude they'd like on top of the cloud layer.

Chapter 10: Aeromedical and ADM

Aeronautical Decision Making

In this lesson you will learn about one of the hardest and most important parts of good airmanship, aeronautical decision making. ADM.

Spatial Disorientation

As the pilot you must do everything you can to predict and prevent spatial disorientation from occurring. That starts with you knowing a bit about how it works.


The DECIDE and PAVE acronyms are designed to help you during stressful situations by giving you a specific device to help you process the information.

Automation Management

As more technology becomes available to pilots in the cockpit, it is extremely important that you learn to remain the Pilot In Command and manage the automation effectively.

Sinuses and Inner Ear

It's important to understand how the sinuses and inner ear work as you fly through various altitudes and flight conditions.


Hypoxia is a lack of oxygen in the brain. Most hypoxia is due to reduced partial pressures at altitude but there is more to the story than that. It's important that you understand.

Hyperventilation and Dehydration

In this lesson we go over the symptoms of hyperventilation and dehydration both the traditional solutions and the practical realities of these two potential problems.

Experience is the difference.

Ground School will bring you 20 years of expert CFI wisdom. Try it FREE.

Get your free trial