Instrument Flight


Gain the skills associated with performing basic instrument flight maneuvers solely by reference to instruments.


This is the required reading for this lesson. Numbers in [brackets] indicate the starting and ending page in the referenced reading material. Read all the pages and sections referenced.

  • Instrument Flying Handbook
    • Chapter 6 - Airplane Attitude Instrument Flying
      • [6-1 to 6-14] "Using Analog Instruments", or
      • [6-15 to 6-28] "Using an Electronic Flight Display"
    • Chapter 7 - Airplane Basic Flight Maneuvers
      • [7-1 to 7-32] "Using Analog Instruments", or
      • [7-33 to 7-61] "Using an Electronic Flight Display"


The notes below are mostly applicable to analog instruments. Students using an Electronic Flight Display (aka glass cockpit) should refer to the alternate reading material listed above.

Reading the notes without having read the actual referenced material is generally not sufficient to pass the written exam!

IFH - Chapter 6

  • Control Instruments
    • Attitude Indicator
    • Turn coordinator
    • Power Instruments
  • Performance Instruments
    • Airspeed Indicator (ASI)
    • Altitude Indicator
    • Vertical Speed Indicator (VSI)
  • Navigation Instruments
    • VOR Radios
    • ADF
  • Instrument Cross-Check (Scanning)
    • Cross-checking is mandatory in instrument flying
    • Selected Radial Cross-Check
      • 80 to 90 percent of flight time spent looking at the attitude indicator
      • Only quick glances at the five instruments surrounding the attitude indicator
    • Inverted-V Cross-Check
      • Scan from the attitude indicator down to the turn coordinator
      • Up to the attitude indicator
      • Down to the VSI
      • Back up to the attitude indicator
    • Rectangular Cross-Check
      • Scans across the top three instruments (airspeed indicator, attitude indicator, and altimeter)
      • Drops down to scan the bottom three instruments (VSI, heading indicator, and turn instrument)

IFH - Chapter 7

  • Pitch control
    • Attitude Indicator - Direct Indication
    • Altimeter - Indirect Indication
      • As a rule of thumb, for errors of less than 100 feet, use a half bar attitude width correction
      • For errors in excess of 100 feet, use an initial full bar attitude width correction
    • Vertical Speed Indicator (VSI) - Indirect Indication
      • A deviation of more than 200 fpm from the desired rate of return is considered overcontrolling
    • Airspeed Indicator (ASI) - Indirect Indication
      • Constant Airspeed - Constant Pitch
      • Increased Airspeed - Decreased Pitch
      • Decreased Airspeed - Increased Pitch
  • Bank Control
    • Attitude Indicator
    • Heading Indicator
    • Turn Coordinator
    • Turn-and-Slip Indicator (Needle and Ball)
  • Standard rate turn
    • Complete 360 degree circle in 2 minutes (3 degrees per second)
    • Indicated on the turn coordinator when airplane wings align with the lines
    • Rule of thumb - Bank angle should be 15% of true airspeed
  • Unusual Attitudes and Recoveries
    • Nose-High Attitudes - Airspeed Decreasing
      • Increase Power
      • Apply forward elevator pressure
      • Correct bank attitude
    • Nose-Low Attitudes - Airspeed Increasing
      • Reduce Power
      • Correct bank attitude
      • Raise the nose

Sim Pilot Notes

These notes highlight the differences between simulator and real-world flying. These differences are most often due to simulator limitations or specific VATSIM rules.

IFH - Chapter 6/7

  • Instrument flight is easier in the simulator
    • No potentially contradicting sensory input
    • Complete focus on instruments
    • Ability to instantly set various weather conditions
  • Basic instruments are usually modeled well even in default aircraft
  • Many add-on aircraft model icing and pitot tube blockage.
    • Set the weather appropriately to avoid icing or use the available anti-ice/heating options on the aircraft

Tomas Hansson (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
Chief Flight Instructor, VATSTAR
DISCLAIMER: all information contained herein is for flight simulation purposes only.
March 2021

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