Integrated flight instruction is flight instruction during which learners are taught to perform flight maneuvers both by outside visual references and by reference to flight instruments. For this type of instruction to be fully effective, the use of instrument references should begin the first time each new maneuver is introduced. No distinction in the pilot’s operation of the flight controls is permitted, regardless of whether outside references or instrument indications are used for the performance of the maneuver. When this training technique is used, instruction in the control of an aircraft by outside visual references is integrated with instruction in the use of flight instrument indications for the same operations.

Development of Habit Patterns

It important for the learner to establish the habit of observing and relying on flight instruments from the beginning of flight training. It is equally important for the learner to learn the feel and sounds of the airplane while conducting maneuvers, such as being able to sense when the airplane is out of trim or in a nose-high or nose-low attitude. Learners who have performed all normal flight maneuvers by reference to instruments, as well as by outside references, develop the habit of continuously monitoring their own and the aircraft’s performance. The early establishment of the habits of instrument cross-check, instrument interpretation, and aircraft control is highly useful to the learner. The habitual attention to instrument indications leads to improved landings because of more precise airspeed control. Effective use of instruments also results in superior cross-country navigation, better coordination, and generally, a better overall pilot competency level.

General aviation accident reports provide ample support for the belief that reference to flight instruments is important to safety. The safety record of pilots who hold instrument ratings is significantly better than that of pilots with comparable flight time who have never received formal flight training for an instrument rating. Pilots in training who are asked to perform all normal flight maneuvers by reference to instruments, as well as by outside references, will develop the habit of continuously monitoring their own and the aircraft’s performance. . The habits formed at this time also give the learner a firm foundation for later training for an instrument rating.

Operating Efficiency

As learners become more proficient in monitoring and correcting their own flight technique by reference to flight instruments, the performance obtained from an aircraft increases noticeably. This is particularly true of modern, complex, or high-performance aircraft, which are responsive to the use of correct operating airspeeds.

The use of correct power settings and climb speeds and the accurate control of headings during climbs result in a measurable increase in climb performance. Holding precise headings and altitudes in cruising flight definitely increases average cruising performance.

The use of integrated flight instruction provides the learner with the ability to control an aircraft in flight for limited periods if outside references are lost. In an emergency, this ability could save the pilot’s life and those of the passengers.

During the conduct of integrated flight training, the flight instructor needs to impress on the learners and ascertain they understand that the introduction to the use of flight instruments does not prepare them for operations in marginal weather or instrument meteorological conditions (IMC). According to NTSB accident data, inflight encounters with weather (attempting VFR flight into IMC) is one of the most common causes of fatalities.


Integrated flight instruction begins with the first briefing on the function of the flight controls. This briefing includes the instrument indications to be expected, as well as the outside references to be used to control the attitude of the aircraft.

Each new flight maneuver is introduced using both outside and instrument references with learners developing the ability to maneuver an aircraft equally as well by instrument or outside references. They naturally accept the fact that the manipulation of the flight controls is identical, regardless of which references are used to determine the attitude of the aircraft. This practice should continue throughout the flight instruction for all maneuvers. To fully achieve the demonstrated benefits of this type of training, the use of visual and instrument references must be constantly integrated throughout the training. Failure to do so lengthens the flight instruction necessary for the learner to achieve the competency required for a private pilot certificate.

See and Avoid

From the start of flight training, the instructor ensures learners develop the habit of looking for other air traffic at all times. If learners believe the instructor assumes all responsibility for scanning and collision avoidance procedures, they do not develop the habit of maintaining a constant vigilance, which is essential to safety. Any observed tendency of a learner to enter flight maneuvers without first making a careful check for other air traffic needs to be corrected immediately. Recent studies of midair collisions determined that:

  • Flight instructors were onboard the aircraft in 37 percent of the accidents in the study.
  • Most of the aircraft involved in collisions are engaged in recreational flying not on any type of flight plan.
  • Most midair collisions occur in VFR weather conditions during weekend daylight hours.
  • The vast majority of accidents occurred at or near nontowered airports and at altitudes below 1,000 feet.
  • Pilots of all experience levels were involved in midair collisions, from pilots on their first solo, to 20,000 hour veterans.
  • Most collisions occur in daylight with visibility greater than 3 miles.

It is imperative to introduce 14 CFR part 91, section 91.113 “right-of-way” rules to the learner. Practice the “see and avoid” concept at all times regardless of whether the training is conducted under VFR or instrument flight rules (IFR). For more information on how to reduce the odds of becoming involved in a midair collision, see Advisory Circular 90-48 (as amended).