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Instrument & Commercial Certificates

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Well-known member
Mar 5, 2002
How long does it usually take to get your instrument rating? What is the cost? How long does it usually take to get your commercial rating? What is the cost for that? How many hours do you have to have for each? Also, another thing that has been bugging me. I don't understand you can get a commercial for SEL and not for MEL. So, how do you get it for MEL? More training? If someone could explain how you can get the certificates and then the add-ons like SEL or MEL that would be great. THANKS:rolleyes:
The aeronautical experience requirements for obtaining an instrument rating are covered in FAR 61.65, and for a Commercial certificate in FAR 61.129, both of which can be found here:


As to how much it will cost/how long it will take, well, that depends. With an extraordinary level of dedication, ready money, and cooperative weather, you can earn your instrument rating in two weeks (provided you start the training already having flown 50 hours cross-country PIC)! One cannot count on having the above three things throughout one's aviation career, so strike while the iron is hot! To earn your Commercial certificate, the training won't even take two weeks (again assuming the above) -- the problem here is how to earn the minimum 190 hours.

Back to the real world, where none of us has any money or time, and thunderstorms develop where they will: it could take a few months to earn either your IR or your Commercial. Ask yourself how much money/time you are willing to devote to your goal when the time comes. Countless schools advertise programs that are competitive with the price that Joe's FBO would charge you, though you may have to travel to them (but hey, that's just more cross-country time). Look in the margins and the back of practically any aviation periodical for a fistful of schools. Someone who has been through this training more recently than I could give you a better idea on prices. I don't even remember what I had for breakfast today.

Your Commercial certificate will be issued for whatever sort of aircraft in which you take the checkride. I think most Commercial pilots start in singles (a notable exception being converted military ratings), then as you said, 'add-on' the MEL rating afterwards. An 'add-on rating' (this happens to be the terminology the FAA uses, too) involves another checkride taken to the same standards by which you earned your certificate. So you would train to Commercial standards in a Multi-engine airplane (including instrument operations, assuming your Commercial isn't VFR only), which takes around ten hours (and thank GOD, because otherwise NO one could afford it), then pass another checkride, then *poof*, you are Commercially certified with ASMEL privileges. Not that you can do anything with your Commercial certificate, but that's another discussion entirely (also kind of a joke, as you'll find when you read FAR 61.133 and 119.1(e) -- you can actually do a lot with this license).

Anyhow, I hope I answered at least one of your questions in this rambling post. I do get long-winded in the early hours.

Best regards,
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Commercial-Multi ratings

Get your FAR/AIM and look up the time requirements for both. Bottom line, if you train under Part 61, you can earn your Commercial-Instrument in as few as 250 hours. You can earn both at a Part 141 school in 190 hours.

The truth of the matter is under either scheme you'll probably need more hours because most everybody does, for many reasons. Sometimes, flights go over time because of traffic congestion. People start and stop training and need review flights to get back to speed. Some people just don't pick up things immediately and need extra flights to learn them. There's nothing wrong with that; everyone has his/her strengths and weaknesses. But, all of this adds to the minimum times needed to earn the ratings.

In terms of actual time needed to finish, that indeed depends on a lot of things, such as your availability, aircraft availability, weather, and finances. Some schools require an up-front deposit and you fly off that deposit. Your training will stop until you put down another deposit. I trained on a pay-as-you-go basis with an instructor who owned a plane. I had availability problems because I worked overnights during most of the years (yes, you read it right, years) I was working on my ratings.

You can earn your Commercial in either a single or a twin. Many of the bigger schools train you for both Instrument and Commercial in twins. I like that because it gets you more multi experience early in your flying. It is also expensive.

Hope this helps some more. Good luck with your training.
I'm working on my commerical now. Under part 141, you will need 120 hours of flight, in addition to your previous hours. I think that the 190 comes in if you do all of your previous ratings under 141 (35 for the private, 35 for the insturment, and 120 for the commerical equals 190 hours).

Price depends on what you fly and how much it will cost per hour. I think for me the commercial is around $11,000 or so.

If you want a cheaper way to fly, try working for the local FBO, maybe even part time. They knock 20% off the plane/instructor fee for me being an employee.
I did my commercial part 141 as well.

It will vary from flight school to flight school because each one has to write their own training curriculum and have it approved by the FAA.

Schools also may have prerequisites for each type of training, for instance.

My school required you to do your PPL under part 61 and then be recommended by the instructor for part 141 training. I thought it was just some kind of gimmick at first, that each PPL would be recommended but that was not the case, some were indeed turned down because (I was told and later found out) the training is fast and very accelerated. The 141 syllabus the school used had each lesson plan layed out for each and every single day.

I started my commercial training in July of 96 and the very first thing they did was schedule out all 50 hrs of my required cx country time. I did them all in just under two weeks flying each day and sometimes twice a day.

We had a 7 day break for Instrument ground school which ended with the FAA written, which had to be passed to continue and then, based on a low score but passing score you may be rolled out of 141 and into 61.

Our 141 training was broken into four stages with each stage broken down into 10 to 15 lessons. First order of business was basic instrument flight, single engine. Eight lessons later you took your first stage check, which was basically, a checkride up to the level of training you had covered.

Next was an intro to multi flight, which lasted 10 hrs and was all commercial maneuvers to commercial standards. Then a multi engine stage check and then onto stage two.

Each stage got progressively harder and the info came much faster and you were back and forth between single and multi, usually in 10 hr blocks.

At the end of stage three we broke for another 7 days of formal ground school, commercial ground school, which was actually taught to us by our future, check airman. He was awesome but brutal.

The whole evolution lasted just under four months, you were scheduled to fly every day except Saturday or Sunday, (your choice) and if wx got you, you had a minimum of one hr of ground school in its place.

I completed the last stage check in late October and had my sign off ride two days later. The checkride was a commercial instrument checkride, first you did the instrument portion, single engine stuff then broke for the multi portion.

Checkride on Nov, 1st of 96, oral began at 8 AM, lasted about 1.5 and we headed for the plane a PA-28R. Single portion was over in 1.5 hrs, landed, back into the examiners office and did the multi oral this time just my multi F/P, AWAB and systems etc… about 30 minutes, everything else had been covered earlier.

Multi portion lasted exactly 1.2 and I was told to land and me him in his office after I turned in the books and the “can”. Arrive to find my temporary awaiting my signature.

Went to the students lounge and broke down crying, I had achieved one of my dreams.
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Schools v. Part 61

I tend to come out in favor of schools because of their inherent discipline and standardization. I feel that discipline is good for flight training. You need discipline when going through any kind of training program.

You go to a place such as FlightSafety or Comair and all they do is training. The training is FAA-approved, so you know you are learning what you are supposed to learn. You are, indeed, going to school and are receiving standardized training. You have to meet standards as you complete a phase of training before you can move on to each phase of training. That makes for consistency and a better product at the end of the training. Having to prepare for a stage check imposes a discipline all its own. I feel that all this is beneficial because you'll need discipline and good study habits as you proceed up the ladder. Also, being a product of standardized program will help you later because more advanced jobs are all about standardization.

I say all this because all my initial training was Part 61 with instructors who owned airplanes and who instructed as a sideline. As a consequence, I don't feel that I learned enough during that time. I discovered this rather suddenly when I got my first full-time instructing job. I saw how my colleagues and maybe my students possessed far more knowledge than I did. I was horrified! So, I hit the books and got up to speed. In so doing, I feel that there were gaps in my knowledge that I would not have had if I had trained in a real training program in classrooms, sims and with proper preparation before each flight.

As always, we are all products of our experiences. Good luck with your training.
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