# Can an IFR clearance be issued and flown through IMC in class G airspace?

Let's say an IFR flight was planned to depart from a non-towered airport with class G airspace extending from the surface to 700 feet AGL. The flight visibility and ceiling both go down to 0. Can the pilot get an IFR clearance?

If the airport had class E airspace from the surface up it would be in controlled airspace from the ground and I'm positive that an IFR clearance could be issued allowing IFR flight in that class E airspace right from takeoff.

In the case of class G airspace from the ground, the airspace is uncontrolled. Could an IFR clearance be issued that allows IFR flight and waives the basic VFR weather minimums for class G airspace?

The key point is in your last sentence:

In the case of class G airspace from the ground, the airspace is uncontrolled.

Uncontrolled airspace is, well, uncontrolled. An appropriately rated, current pilot, in an appropriately equipped aircraft, may fly IFR in class G airspace without either a clearance or a flight plan. There are no clearances to waive VFR minima in class G, because the flight is conducted under IFR.

If an entire flight is flown in class G airspace, a pilot does not need to talk to a controller at all. When class G airspace is overlaid by controlled airspace, like class E, the pilot will need a clearance before entering controlled airspace. The controller will provide a clearance (FAA Order 7110.65, p. 4-3-2):

WHEN ENTERING CONTROLLED AIRSPACE (instruction), FLY HEADING (degrees) UNTIL REACHING (altitude, point, or fix) BEFORE PROCEEDING ON COURSE.

Once the pilot is released for departure, they would depart IFR in class G, where they would be responsible for their own terrain and traffic clearance (using tools like an Obstacle Departure Procedure). As soon as they climb into class E airspace, they receive the benefits and responsibilities of flying in the ATC system.

An interesting border case is raised by wbeard52. In this case, a pilot departed a class G airport with class E starting at 700 AGL, and broke out of the clouds before entering controlled airspace. The ruling basically said that taking off in this situation without a clearance is not explicitly illegal, but falls under "careless or reckless operation" prohibited by FAR 91.13.

Let's say an IFR flight was planned to depart from a non-towered airport with class G airspace extending from the surface to 700 feet AGL. The flight visibility and ceiling both go down to 0. Can the pilot get an IFR clearance?

Yes. The ATC clearance will use the words "when entering controlled airspace"...

Is it legal to takeoff from a Class G airport with less than 1 sm visibility?

I don't know. Here is an interesting ALJ decision from one pilot who did that. Although, his specifics are just a little different. An excerpt from the decision. Case 3935.

Respondent has appealed from the oral initial decision issued by Administrative Law Judge Joyce Capps at the close of an evidentiary hearing held in this matter on July 8, 1991. In that decision the law judge found that respondent's takeoff from an uncontrolled airport into clouds without a clearance or release from air traffic control (ATC) was not a violation of 14 C.F.R. 91.155(a), but was in violation of 14 C.F.R. 91.13(a).

• It's important to note that the ATC clearance begins upon entry into controlled airspace and NOT before. No separation services are provided until then. Another thing to note is that class G airports typically don't have departure procedures, so terrain/obstacle impact is a very real threat. – newmanth Oct 12 '15 at 3:18
• The only exception I've found to "class G airports don't have departure procedures" is KTNX -- but unless you're doing "black" things for the USAF or are a Janet pilot, good luck flying into/out of there! – UnrecognizedFallingObject Nov 24 '15 at 0:52
• Wow! Great find on Case 3935. I found the FAA's response both amusing and true With regard to respondent's assertion that, "[i]f anytime an aircraft enters clouds in uncontrolled airspace it is careless without a clearance then the FAR's should be changed," we note that it would be neither wise nor possible for the FAA to attempt to specifically prohibit every form of conduct that it considered careless. – Canuk Sep 7 '16 at 5:42
• Many Class D airports revert to Class G when the tower is closed. They usually have obstacle departure procedures. and often SIDs, depending on the surrounding terrain and obstacles. – JScarry Feb 11 '17 at 16:35

Most non-towered airports are Class G until 700 or 1200 AGL. There are MANY non-towered airports with IFR approaches and ODPs. Every time you descend while IMC into Class G on a published approach or depart on an ODP or Diverse Departure after being released for an IFR departure, you are legally flying in Class G while IMC.

If the flight is conducted entirely in class G airspace, then possibly.

Pilots operating an aircraft under Part 123 or Part 125 cannot do so as the it requires at least 1 NM visibility for an aircraft with 1-2 engines and at least 1/2 NM visibility for aircraft with more than two engines. Flights conducted under Part 91 operations allow for a departure under zero-zero conditions, though it is not advisable to do so.

If one does conduct the flight under Part 91 operations in Class G airspace in zero-zero conditions, an instrument rated pilot may depart into these conditions without an IFR clearance (though the pilot may want to have his/her head examined if they tried this!). It would not be permissible for any segment of this flight to enter controlled airspace in IMC without first filing a flight plan and obtaining an IFR clearance before entering.

On a side note, if you remained in hard IMC in class G airspace with all nearby airports in zero-zero conditions, you would not be able to land as I don't know of any such airports equipped with a CAT III-C ILS approach into it.

Departures into class G airspace with an Class E shelf overhead is commonplace. However the pilot must file an IFR flight plan prior to contacting either the local flight service station or clearance delivery from a nearby towered airport. Typically, the clearance will be issued with a clearance void time, meaning that the pilot must make the departure and make contact with an ARTCC befor that time or a new IFR clearance must be obtained.