We were pleased to hear that a rule published by the FAA on December 3rd, 2014 will allow students to count more time in simulators toward their instrument rating. The rule will allow students training under part 61 to count up to 10 hours in a basic ATD (Aviation Training Device) and up to 20 hours in an advanced ATD. The rule will also allow students training under part 141 to log up to 40% of their instrument training time in an ATD.
As technology has advanced in the past decade, ATD's have become a very effective tool in flight training. We applaud the FAA for this decision because it means the cost of an instrument rating could go down significantly. A good FAA certified basic ATD can be bought for around $4500, certainly affordable for even smaller flight schools. Up to 10 hours can now be logged under part 61 in a basic ATD. Let's say the average basic ATD rents for $50/hr and the average instrument training airplane rents for $150/hr. Over 10 hours, thats a savings of at least $1000, because it will take over 10 hours in the airplane to log the 10 hours of simulated instrument because not all of that billed airplane time will be simulated or actual instrument time. Some of the time in the airplane is used in start up, taxi, runup, takeoff, and landing. Plus, students can safely practice maneuvers and procedures on an ATD without an instructor, which would save on instructor fees and allow more practice time by the student. Furthermore, we feel the ATD's have some real positives from a training perspective, like allowing students to practice in many different weather conditions, allowing students to fly on the those days when the weather won't allow them to practice in the actual airplane, and students can pause the flight and immediately do any procedure over again. Aviation Training Devices are exceptional for practicing procedures such as holds and tracking Navaids. Additionally, many students get an instrument rating and never experience any actual IFR conditions. Advanced ATD's, especially, are great at simulating actual instrument conditions. So good in fact, it's possible to get spacially disoriented in one, a great experience for perspective instrument pilots.
We hope the FAA continues on the path of common sense rule changes that make flying safer and more affordable. Let's hope the 3rd class medical rule change is next!