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So let's assume that I'm the sole manipulator of the flight controls in an aircraft in which I'm rated and that I fly an instrument approach.

What weather does the FAA require (assuming that I'm not wearing a view limiting device) in order to log the approach for currency requirements? For instance, if I am cleared for an ILS in visual conditions, can I log it? What if I start the approach in the clouds and break out at 1,500 ft and continue the approach? 1,000 ft? Before/after the outer marker? 150 feet above minimums? I think that you get the idea....

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Update with relevant info from InFO 15012 (I'm skipping the FTD portions as not relevant to the question, and including the simulated parts but italicizing them as they're useful but also not relevant). Translated, you can log an approach when:

  1. it is flown solely by reference to instruments, and
    1. it is flown in IMC, and Actual Instrument time is logged, or
    2. the PF is using a view-limiting device, and Simulated Instrument time is logged;
  2. you must fly the complete approach from a feeder or the IAP (or Vectors to Final) and remain established the whole time. This means you fly initial, intermediate, and final segments, unless you're on vectors.
    1. if flying the approach in IMC, you may log an approach that:
      • continues to DA/DH or MDA in actual, or
      • becomes VMC before DA/DH or MDA, provided you are inside the FAF.
    2. if simulating the approach, you must continue to the DA/DH or MDA under the hood (or other VLD);

That's pretty much it. Here's the source text:

A pilot may log an IAP for currency or training when the pilot accomplishes the IAP in accordance with the following conditions:

  1. When conducted in an aircraft, flight simulator, flight training device, or aviation training device, the pilot must operate that aircraft or authorized training device solely by reference to instruments [§ 61.51(g)(1)];
  2. When conducted in an aircraft, flight simulator, flight training device, or aviation training device, the pilot must be established on each required segment of the IAP to the minimum descent altitude (MDA) or decision altitude/decision height (DA/DH);
  3. When conducted in an aircraft simulating instrument flight conditions, a flight simulator, a flight training device, or an aviation training device, the simulated instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) must continue to MDA or DA/DH; and
  4. When conducted in an aircraft, the flight must be conducted under actual or simulated instrument flight conditions [§ 61.51(g)(1)].
  5. When conducted in an aircraft maneuvering in IMC, and the aircraft transitions from IMC to visual flight conditions on the final approach segment of the IAP prior to or upon reaching MDA or DA/DH.

Previously, I linked to Rod Machado, who cites the FAA in an answer to this that I quite like, and which was pretty frequently referred to when I was instructing at a flight school:

Once you have been cleared for and have initiated an instrument approach in IMC, you may log that approach for instrument currency, regardless of the altitude at which you break out of the clouds.

...but this is not the latest knowledge anymore. It's functionally pretty close to the InFo rules for IMC approaches, though!

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    $\begingroup$ Here is a link to a website that discusses this issue in more detail with some more history on the FAA's views that I like: midlifeflight.com/flying-faq/faq-instrument-procedures-currency $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger Dec 19 '13 at 2:33
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    $\begingroup$ Nice! Thanks. Might take another pass at the answer tomorrow. $\endgroup$ – egid Dec 19 '13 at 3:16
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    $\begingroup$ That is similarto my personal rule - If its IMC when I cross the FAF, its an actual approach. $\endgroup$ – casey Jan 13 '14 at 3:32
  • $\begingroup$ Hmmm... so how do you maintain currency in a place with perpetually good weather? $\endgroup$ – abelenky Jan 13 '14 at 4:35
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    $\begingroup$ @abelenky Simulated IFR approaches! This question was specifically about approaches in actual. $\endgroup$ – egid Jan 13 '14 at 4:40
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The FAA has recently come out with an InFO 15012 describing in detail what constitutes a loggable approach.

Logging Instrument Approach Procedures

Portions of InFo 15012

Discussion: Section 61.57(c)(1-5) permits a pilot to use one of four methods to conduct and then log IAPs:

  1. Actual instrument flight conditions flown in an aircraft;
  2. Simulated instrument flight conditions, using a view-limiting device, flown in an aircraft with a safety pilot;
  3. Simulated instrument flight conditions conducted in any FAA approved:

    Flight Simulator/Full Flight Simulator (FFS), Flight Training Device (FTD), or Aviation Training Device (ATD),

  4. A combination of methods 1 through 3 as prescribed by § 61.57(c)(4), or (5).


A pilot may log an IAP for currency or training when the pilot accomplishes the IAP in accordance with the following conditions:

  1. When conducted in an aircraft, flight simulator, flight training device, or aviation training device, the pilot must operate that aircraft or authorized training device solely by reference to instruments [§ 61.51(g)(1)];
  2. When conducted in an aircraft, flight simulator, flight training device, or aviation training device, the pilot must be established on each required segment of the IAP to the minimum descent altitude (MDA) or decision altitude/decision height (DA/DH);
  3. When conducted in an aircraft simulating instrument flight conditions, a flight simulator, a flight training device, or an aviation training device, the simulated instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) must continue to MDA or DA/DH; and
  4. When conducted in an aircraft, the flight must be conducted under actual or simulated instrument flight conditions [§ 61.51(g)(1)].
  5. When conducted in an aircraft maneuvering in IMC, and the aircraft transitions from IMC to visual flight conditions on the final approach segment of the IAP prior to or upon reaching MDA or DA/DH.
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  • $\begingroup$ I saw this, and thought that I needed to add the info here. Thanks for beating me to it! $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger Oct 2 '15 at 2:37
  • $\begingroup$ Having a "plain language" summary would make this answer much better though. ;-) $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger Oct 2 '15 at 2:40
  • $\begingroup$ I believe the new guidance now allows you to count a simulated instrument approach if you have to break off for traffic after the FAF. $\endgroup$ – Bill Jun 11 at 18:12
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14 cfr 61.51 (g)Logging instrument time.

(1) A person may log instrument time only for that flight time when the person operates the aircraft solely by reference to instruments under actual or simulated instrument flight conditions.

(2) An authorized instructor may log instrument time when conducting instrument flight instruction in actual instrument flight conditions.

(3) For the purposes of logging instrument time to meet the recent instrument experience requirements of § 61.57(c) of this part, the following information must be recorded in the person's logbook -

(i) The location and type of each instrument approach accomplished; and

(ii) The name of the safety pilot, if required.

(4) A person can use time in a flight simulator, flight training device, or aviation training device for acquiring instrument aeronautical experience for a pilot certificate, rating, or instrument recency experience, provided an authorized instructor is present to observe that time and signs the person's logbook or training record to verify the time and the content of the training session.

So back to when can the approach be logged, the way I read it, 61.51 (g)(1) would be actual instrument if the flight at that point was conducted solely by reference to instruments. It could be 10 miles in haze or 1 mile in haze. If your primary reference is the instruments, then it is instrument time.

Keep in mind that instrument flight can be conducted even though the weather conditions are better than VFR minima. For example, at night with no ground reference, over water, in haze, in snow or precip.

So my short answer, is that the actual weather at any point is secondary, and the primary criteria is whether you are operating solely by reference to instruments. And I would add that if you are in and out of clouds or precip, or smoke or whatever, you need to fly by instruments because your outside reference is unreliable. You can still scan outside the plane, even though you rely on the instruments.

EDIT to address comment by original poster: What weather does the FAA require (assuming that I'm not wearing a view limiting device) in order to log the approach for currency requirements? The issue is not the weather but how you are conducting the flight, and when you fly solely by reference to instruments, you may log it as instrument time.

For instance, if I am cleared for an ILS in visual conditions, can I log it? It depends upon what reference you are using to fly. If solely by instruments, then you can log it.

What if I start the approach in the clouds and break out at 1,500 ft and continue the approach? 1,000 ft? Again, it depends upon what your reference for flight is. If instruments, then log the time. If you break out at 1000 ft, you might still be in non-VFR conditions, depending upon the airspace, etc.

Before/after the outer marker? What is your flight reference?

150 feet above minimums? What is your flight reference?

I think that you get the idea.... Not really. The regs are reasonably clear in that they say you can log when you fly by instrument reference. Just because you head pops out of a cloud does not mean you are not flying by instrument reference.

To editorialize, I would be careful looking at FAA Letters of Interpretation. A local pilot did exactly that, and had his ATP and CFI revoked. Look at the regs. Because the regs, not some lawyers opinion on a given day, is what the NTSB will be applying at your hearing.

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  • $\begingroup$ Okay, so change my question to read "when operating solely by reference to instruments" instead of "what weather" and there is still a lot of ambiguity about when that's required (more specifically, what about the situations in the last paragraph of the questions?). $\endgroup$ – Lnafziger Apr 19 '17 at 1:00

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