Introduction to the EASA CB-IR

A comprehensive Q&A video on the EASA competency based instrument rating (CBIR), answering some frequent questions and I’ll explain how I’ll gain this all important rating. Bringing the prospect of some exciting videos to come…

In recent years the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) authorities introduced a new, simplified process for those who have completed experience of instrument flight time as PIC on aeroplanes, under a rating providing the privileges to fly under IFR and in IMC or suitably qualified and sufficiently experienced pilot holding an ICAO Annex 1 Instrument Rating (IR) to convert that rating into an EASA IR. 

IFR flying over the East of Anglia

This course is aimed at experienced pilots not looking to take the commercial route and is carefully tailored to each pilot undertaking the training. It can be added to an EASA PPL or CPL, and also for frozen ATPL Students offering the full privileges of an Instrument Rating gained through the normal route.

The frequent questions for the CB-IR – Q&A

What is the EASA CB-IR?

The CBIR is a new and unique way to train towards the IR which is valid anywhere in the world. The aim, quite simply to fly an aeroplane under instrument flight rules with a minimum decision height of 200 feet (60 metres).

Unique in many ways the course is aimed at experienced pilots not looking to take the commercial route.

What are the license requirements?

The pre-requisites for all applications are that you meet English language proficiency requirements and hold one of the following licences: a PPL (A) and FRTOL or a CPL (A) or an ATPL in another category of aircraft

What are the medical requirements?

You will need to hold a current and valid Class 1 Part medical or Class 2 medical with a valid audiogram to apply.

What flying experience do you need?

You must also have completed at least 50 hours of cross country flight time as Pilot in Command (PIC) in aeroplanes, TMGs, helicopters or airships of which at least 10 hours shall be in aeroplanes.

Can you exercise the privileges at night?

If you want to use the privileges of the IR (A) at night and you only hold a PPL (A) you will also need to hold a Night rating.

What theoretical knowledge is required?

You can complete any of the following training with an Authorised Training Organisation: ATPL (A) or CBIR / EIR (En-route Instrument Rating) or IR(A) theory.

You will need a valid pass in all of the exams for the training route that you are following.

What theory is covered?

If you follow the FULL IR, CB-IR or E-IR route you can expect to cover 7 subjects, which takes three to four weeks (80 hours of study). 

The seven subjects to study are as follows:

  • Air Law
  • Flight Planning
  • Human Performance
  • IFR Communications
  • Instrumentation
  • Meteorology
  • Radio Navigation

Following the ATPL theory route, consists of 14 examinations.  These exams are quite intense, and are usually done over a period of 6 months full time education or longer if studying at distance.  But bear in mind that you must pass all exams within 18 months of your first exam sitting.

The fourteen subjects to study are as follows:

  • Human Performance & Limitations
  • Air Law & ATC Procedures
  • Operational Procedures
  • VFR Communications
  • IFR Communications
  • Meteorology
  • Principles of Flight
  • Performance
  • Flight Planning
  • General Navigation
  • Mass & Balance

The HPA and ATPL theory requirement

The CBIR is available for aeroplanes only. The privileges of the CBIR do not include flying ‘high-performance aeroplanes’ (HPA) under IFR unless further theoretical knowledge is obtained.

Learning objectives for complex and high-performance aircraft have been shifted to a separate, later exam for those progressing beyond light aircraft, so the full IR is now more appropriate for private pilots adding the rating.

The hour’s credit?

You can claim a maximum of 30 hours towards the 40 hours course if you have flown under IFR and IMC conditions under the privileges of an EIR, ICAO IR or IMC/IR(R).

The base requirement is that you will require a minimum of 40 hrs IFR experience (for CB-IR on SEP) prior to being permitted to take the Initial IR Test can be made up of credits that you can claim for prior experience or for prior training up to a maximum of 15 hours of prior training. (Which could be the training you did for your IMCR) and or up to 20 hours of your own prior IFR experience that you might have gained as captain on flights after you had obtained you’re IMCR/IRR.

Further Guidance on specific routes to gaining a CBIR can be found on the UK CAA website.

Knowledge credit if any?

There are no theoretical knowledge credits.  There is an exception to this if you have an ICAO licence in current flying practice and have a minimum of 50 hours Pilot in Command in Instrument Flight Rules.

You must hold a current and valid: ICAO licence with a validating medical & Instrument rating. The theoretical examination is assessing as part of the Instrument Rating skills test.

More information can be found on the UK CAA website under Guidance on specific routes to gaining a CBIR for ICAO license holders with 50 hours Pilot in Command in Instrument Flight Rules.

The 10 hour ATO requirement?

No matter how much prior training or prior experience you may have, you still need to do a minimum of 10 hrs training for the CB-IR at an ATO.

The exception is if you already hold an ICAO license with a validating medical and Instrument Rating from an ICAO country where you have 50 hours Pilot in Command in Instrument Flight Rules.

Why not the full IR, and the misconception it’s not a full IR?

The CB IR is a full ICAO IR, and the skills test is same as the full IR skills test. Only the route used to obtain the IR differs. The CB-IR isn’t a rating, but more so a route to the rating.  This is in sharp contrast to the normal commercial route to the IR via a modular or integrated course, where no prior experience is assumed.

The training requirements are reduced with 10 hours less flight training and 50% less theory, to make it more easy available for a larger number of pilots. The CB-IR does not include the HPA privileges.   As already discussed, this can be done later.  So if you do the ATPL theory and study for the IR via the CB-IR route.  Your CB IR includes the HPA privileges.

Who does the CB-IR?

The CBIR is unique in offering a route for experienced pilots with a past history of instrument flying to train for the full Instrument Rating (IR) in a way which reflects their experience. This is in sharp contrast to the normal commercial route to the IR via a modular or integrated course, where no prior experience is assumed. For the latest on ATOs that conduct the Competency Based Modular Instrument Rating (Aeroplanes).

Simply look for Standards Document 31: Organisations Conducting Approved Courses of Flight and Ground Training

Names and details of all ATOs approved by the UK CAA to provide the CB-IR can be found in this document.

Who does the CB-IR theory?

You can also find school approved to provide the Competency Based Modular Instrument Rating (Aeroplanes) theoretical knowledge in Standards Document 31.    

As of 2019, there are 3 schools that are said to provide the Theoretical Knowledge.   They are Bristol Ground School, Caledonian Advanced Pilot Training Limited and CATS.

What about in Europe?

From the limited research, there are plenty of places in Europe that do the CB-IR route and theoretical knowledge.  After all this is an EASA rating, and not specific to the UK.  I have only done my research being based in the UK.   Other than a list of the ATOs; the requirements and practicalities are the same as defined by EASA.

What’s the cheapest route? ATO aeroplane vs own aeroplane?

In fact this isn’t a question I can answer. Assuming your aircraft meets Standards Document 7, and you choose to fly in your own aircraft. It entirely depends on the ATO you choose, the aircraft you are flying and the cost per hour. 

This is something each individual must assess and calculate.

Can you do it in your own aeroplane?

Yes, provided that it meets the requirements for aeroplanes and helicopters for use on CPL and IR Skills test in Standards Document 7 (AH).

How much per hour for the instructional fee?

This figure seems to be quite hard to find. But having done some research this is anything from £100-£200 per hour, depending on the ATO.

How much will the CBIR cost?

This is the ultimate answer.  How much will the CB-IR cost? Well, I am about to find out.  I will on completion post the IRT give a full description of costs and hourly rates.  This will be dependable on how many hours it takes me.

My journey to the CB-IR

The competency-based training route towards an IR allows pilots to take a competency-based approach. By completing 80 hours of theoretical knowledge instruction as well as at least 40 hours (single-engine aeroplanes) or 45 hours (multi-engine aeroplanes) of flight instruction (parts of which can take place outside a training organisation), an IR can be obtained, with the limitation that the IR privileges cannot be exercised on high-performance aircraft.

I’ll be using my IR(R) to improve my skills in the coming months. Once I have obtained the theoretical knowledge, I hope to have chosen an ATO that will allow me to fly G-ZANY to achieve the dream of an Instrument Rating.

I’ll be posting on YouTube as much as I can.

Instrument Flight Rules


In reality, I can do the maximum possible outside of the ATO to get my skills up to scratch using the IR(R). The IR(R) allows you to fly down to the approach plate minima, whilst there are recommendations for higher, keeping in practice along with carrying a safety pilot or flight instructor that is qualified for teaching of the IR or IMC ratings is beneficial.

I’ll be flying to airports that have IAPs, practising down to plate minima and either landing or diverting for an attempt at another IAP. All of this flying will have to take place in the UK FIR, which incidentally includes the Channel Islands through an agreement.

The theoretical knowledge

The content of IR theoretical knowledge varies from one ICAO member state to another, with some being more focused on practical skills and others requiring a greater degree of theoretical knowledge.

I’ll be studying via the CB-IR theoretical knowledge route. There are seven subjects to study to ensure you receive the smartest education to help you become a competent and safe pilot in the challenging environment of instrument flight. I’ll be using PadPilot in addition to the Ground School.

The seven subjects to study are as follows:

  • Air Law
  • Flight Planning
  • Human Performance
  • IFR Communications
  • Instrumentation
  • Meteorology
  • Radio Navigation

Along with the AviationExam question bank (QB), and choosing the right ground school for me I’ll be looking forward to learning some new and exciting knowledge.

Studying the Aircraft Flight Manual prior to pre-flight checks

Improving safety and standards of flying

Over the coming months I’ll be looking at creating documentation using the UK CAA Safety Sense leaflets and the Aircraft Manual, along with other Guidance Materials to create quick reference sheets and checklists that are specific to the aircraft I fly.

This combination of materials will all help in making sure that the CB-IR is done in a safe but cost efficient manner, of which it was designed for.

Oversight & YouTube

I hope the route I am taking is going to make me a better pilot, and to share with you all the new skills that I hope to learn. Whilst this will be a long road to having the Instrument Rating; I hope I can provide you with an oversight of my progression and as I develop my skill set and airmanship in exclusive videos on my YouTube channel. 

I hope to share with you guys in a unique editorial style with me breaking down thoroughly and honestly everything that went wrong from pre-flight, to landing to debrief, what I have learnt from it and what steps I am putting in place to make me a safer pilot in the future.   I’ll be using the reference material above along with Standards Document 01 (A) to assist in my endeavours. 

Flying through a cold front en-route to Lydd for the RNAV

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Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

Peter Harrisonreply
28/09/2021 at 16:43

Hi Robbie, I see from Youtube that you made it. I am intersted how your journey was. Where did you do the ground theory training ? How hard is the skill test compared to IRR renewals ?

28/09/2021 at 18:54
– In reply to: Peter Harrison

Hi Peter,

Did you see the posted write-up?

Much more challenging, but very rewarding.

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