If you are working on your instrument rating, or thinking about doing this at some point, you should know that there are several great ways to gain valuable experience and save money at the same time. FAR 61.65(i) allows up to 10 hours of instrument time toward the rating to be logged with an “authorized instructor” (i.e. CFII) using a “basic aviation training device” or BATD like our Elite PI-135. Our instrument rating syllabus is designed to use the BATD to allow the student to master instrument flying fundamentals, instrument approach procedures and avionics proficiency before applying these skills in an airplane. Using our BATD can save you more than $1,000 over the course of your instrument training program.

Another way to save money is to fly with a safety pilot. According to FAR 91.109, a safety pilot is someone who holds “at least a private pilot certificate with category and class ratings appropriate to the aircraft being flown.” FAR 61.51, Pilot Logbooks, states that if you fly with an appropriately rated safety pilot, you must record the name of the safety pilot along with other pertinent details regarding the flight. Some pilots, flight instructors and designated pilot examiners have questioned the legality of using a safety pilot to build instrument experience toward the instrument rating, noting that it is not explicitly allowed under 61.65, and that the only place the phrase “safety pilot” is mentioned is in 61.51(g), in the context of meeting the recency of experience requirements under 61.57(c).

Let’s unpack this some more. FAR 61.65(d)(2) states that for the instrument rating, an applicant needs to have logged “40 hours of actual or simulated instrument time in the areas of operation listed in paragraph c of this section, of which 15 hours must have been received from an authorized instructor who holds an instrument-airplane rating,” commonly referred to as a CFII or “double-I.” If you choose to use a BATD to log 10 hours of instrument time with a CFII, you still need to fly for 15 hours with a CFII in an airplane. So that leaves you with another 15 hours of instrument time to get to the 40 hours you’ll need to qualify for the instrument rating.

What about flying with a “regular CFI” who is not a CFII? FAR 61.195, Flight instructor limitations and qualifications, states that “a flight instructor may conduct instrument training for the issuance of an instrument rating… if the following requirements are met: (1) … the flight instructor must hold an instrument rating appropriate to the aircraft used for the instrument rating on his or her flight instructor certificate.” This would seem to prevent a “regular CFI” from conducting the balance of the instrument training that would otherwise be done by a CFII. Plus, there’s no financial incentive to flying with a CFI vs. a CFII, at least at our school, since both are billed at the same rate.

So assuming you used a BATD to log 10 hours of instrument time, you’ve got 15 more hours log somehow; if you didn’t use a BATD at all, you’ve got 25 more hours to log. How are you supposed to get this time if not with a CFII? The answer is to use a safety pilot. I recently wrote an email to the FAA’s Orlando Flight Standards District Office asking for their take on the issue. Can safety pilots be used to build instrument time for the instrument rating or not? I submitted to them a link to the following FAA legal interpretation letter, dated February 24, 2016, which states: Under § 61.65(d)(2), “the required instrument time other than instrument training does not require the presence of a CFI but only the presence of an individual qualified to act as a safety pilot or as a pilot in command of an operation in actual instrument conditions.”

The FSDO manager stated the following in his email reply: I have read the legal interpretation and also the regulations and I do believe that flight time obtained with a safety pilot can be counted towards the 40 hours required for an instrument rating.  This is true provided those hours are obtained with an individual qualified to act as a safety pilot or as pilot in command of an operation in actual instrument conditions, i.e. instrument rated and meets the instrument currency requirements.

To summarize: If you use our BATD with a CFII for 10 hours, fly with a CFII for 15 hours, and fly with a safety pilot for another 15 hours, you can save more than $2,000 on your instrument rating compared to flying all 40 hours with a CFII. Now that we’ve established that using a safety pilot is acceptable to the FAA, let’s talk about how to choose a safety pilot, and how to log the time correctly.

First, you want to read FAA Advisory Circular 61-142, Sharing Operating Expenses In Accordance With 14 CFR 61.113(c). In addition to saving money by not having to pay for an instructor, you can also share the expenses of the aircraft. A private pilot may not pay less than the pro rata share of the operating expenses of a flight with passengers, provided those expenses involve only fuel, oil, airport expenditures, or rental fees.

Second, you don’t want to just grab any pilot off the street and stick them in the right seat as your safety pilot! Remember, this pilot is going to be your “seeing eye dog” while you are wearing a view limiting device for the purpose of logging simulated instrument time. You are quite literally trusting this person with your life. You and the safety pilot should have a good working relationship based on mutual respect and trust, and should have some previous flight experience together in VFR conditions.

We recommend avoiding IMC conditions entirely when building instrument experience with an instrument rated safety pilot. Use your time with a CFII to gain experience flying in actual instrument conditions. This is because while the instrument rated safety pilot may be perfectly capable and comfortable at the controls in IMC while sitting in the left seat, he or she may not be as comfortable scanning the instruments from the right seat while you have your hands on the controls in IMC, all while acting as PIC. Part of earning the “CFII” designation involves extensive training in all of the risk factors associated with flying with an inexperienced pilot in IMC. Leave this one to the pros.

Let’s consider the following scenario. You are a private pilot working on your instrument rating with us at Holladay Aviation. You have completed our aircraft rental checkout syllabus and are current to act as pilot in command in our Cessna 172s. Your friend, who is a private pilot, agrees to serve as your safety pilot so you can build instrument time. You believe your friend is a safe pilot and you would even trust this person to babysit your kids. However, your friend has not completed our aircraft rental checkout syllabus and therefore is not authorized to act as pilot in command in our aircraft, according to our Rental Agreement (even though according to FAA regulations, he may act as PIC). If your friend happens to own an airplane, and you are authorized to act as PIC in his airplane, then you may choose to fly with him in his airplane and share those operating expenses with him. But he cannot act as PIC in a Holladay Aviation aircraft unless he completes our rental checkout.

The better choice would be to find a trusted safety pilot who is also a vetted Holladay Aviation renter pilot. Just ask a staff instructor or see Meredith Holladay for a recommendation. According to FAA, the safety pilot is acting as pilot in command while you are wearing the view limiting device for the purpose of logging instrument time. The safety pilot can log PIC time only while the other pilot is wearing the view limiting device because the safety pilot is also a required crew member. This article from AOPA explains it well. So, if you and your safety pilot are both checked out to rent one of our Cessna 172s, and are both current to act as PIC, you may act as each other’s safety pilot. However if you are only authorized to fly our Cessna 150s and your friend wants to fly a Cessna 172, you may not act as his safety pilot according to our Rental Agreement since you are not authorized to act as PIC in a Cessna 172.

With all of that said, assuming you and your friend are both good to go according to FAA and the Holladay Aviation Rental Agreement, here’s an example of how you might conduct such a mission.

Scenario: Joe and Greg are both vetted Holladay Aviation renter pilots, each with authorization to act as PIC in one of our Cessna 172s. Both are private pilots working on their instrument rating, and are both also building time toward the commercial pilot certificate. They decide to go on a VFR cross country flight to Tallahassee.

Scheduling and Billing: The pilots must decide in advance who is going to fly which leg. Joe decides to fly from CRG to TLH, so he reserves N739ZW from 9:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. Greg decides to fly back to CRG after a short lunch break in TLH, so he reserves N739ZW from 1 p.m. until 3:30 p.m. (That way no other renter can attempt to sneak in an hour of pattern work in between the two reservations.) Each flight will be checked in separately, and each pilot will be billed for their time individually. Another option would be for Joe to reserve the aircraft for the entire time, and have Greg reimburse him separately for his share of the rental costs. Holladay Aviation staff cannot “split the bill” like a server in a restaurant; we can only check in one flight per customer at a time. It is the pilots’ responsibility for scheduling the aircraft based on your intended utilization and means of payment.

Logging The Time: Joe flies the first leg from CRG to TLH, and clicks off 1.5 on the Hobbs. He wore the Foggles for 1.0 of that time. In his log book, Joe records 1.5 total time, 1.5 PIC cross country, 1.0 simulated instrument, and writes “Safety pilot: Greg Jones” in the remarks.

In his logbook, Greg would log 1.5 hours of total time including 1.0 hours of PIC time (the amount of time he was serving as safety pilot while Joe was “under the hood”), but Greg cannot log any PIC cross country since Joe did the takeoff and landing and gets the credit. Greg should put in his notes, “Acted as safety pilot for Joe Smith.” Greg would follow a similar protocol for logging his flight time for the return trip from TLH to CRG, assuming he chose to use a view limiting device to log instrument time with Joe serving as his safety pilot.

It would be also be wise to include some notes in the remarks about what you did while using the Foggles, i.e. “ILS 32 CRG, hold JEVAG, partial panel.” This will bode well for you when you sit down with the DPE on the day of your instrument rating practical test, and he reviews your log book. Always think about being as neat, organized and clear as possible.

Remember, you also need to log 50 hours of PIC cross country time to qualify for the instrument rating. Here’s where a safety pilot can be a great resource! While some pilots prefer to fly solo, many pilots enjoy sharing the experience with someone, and having another qualified pilot onboard can be a great resource, especially in an emergency situation. In addition to being safe and fun, it’s also great “crew” practice for pilots who have their minds set on one day working for a charter operator or an airline.

Moving forward, it would be extremely helpful to Holladay Aviation staff if instrument students would request a logbook review from an instructor after your first safety pilot experience, just so we can make sure you and your safety pilot are logging the time correctly.