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Half Moon Bay (KHAF) does not have any instrument approaches into the airport that I can use. All the approaches require RNAV but my aircraft is not RNAV-capable. Can I fly IFR to it?

I'm thinking that if weather is good, ATC can clear me for the visual approach.

If weather is bad, I'm thinking that they wouldn't be able to clear me and would ask me for an alternate airport to land at?

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  • $\begingroup$ KHAF does appear to have 4 instrument approach procedures. $\endgroup$ – Dave-CFII Feb 11 at 13:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Dave-CFII good point. I forgot to put in my post that in this scenario my aircraft is not RNAV capable, which all the instrument approaches require. $\endgroup$ – slantalpha Feb 11 at 16:13
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Under Part 91, you can file IFR to any point in space, including an airport without an instrument approach. But that doesn't mean you'll be able to land there.

FAR 91.175(a): "Unless otherwise authorized by the FAA, when it is necessary to use an instrument approach to a civil airport, each person operating an aircraft must use a standard instrument approach procedure prescribed in part 97.."

What ATC can do is clear you to that point in space at their lowest vectoring altitude there. If, when you arrive, the conditions are VFR, you can cancel your IFR and land. If not, you have to go somewhere else, possibly the alternate airport you would be required to have filed in your flight plan. And it's that alternate airport that MUST not only have instrument approaches, but have weather forecasts and reports high enough to meet the alternate minimum requirements of 91.169(c).

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    $\begingroup$ You don’t need to cancel your IFR clearance. You can remain IFR and ask for a visual approach. That way if conditions aren’t as expected (e.g too windy, fog rolls in, runway is icy) you can get back into the IFR system and go to an alternate. $\endgroup$ – JScarry Feb 11 at 17:24
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Well it depends on the forecast weather at the destination. If the airport is forecast to have VFR conditions at the ETA, then an instrument approach procedure is not necessary. If conditions are forecast to be MVFR or worse at ETA, then at least one approved instrument approach must be available to the pilot per §91.175.

While those are the legal guidelines, remember the SAFE-LEGAL-REASONABLE rubric for making a go-no-go decision. While it may be safe or legal to fly IFR to an airport with no instrument approach if the weather at ETA is forecast to be VFR, it does close off one avenue of escape should something go wrong. If you do intend to do this, I would include a nearby airport as an alternate in your flight plan. This alternate should be equipped with both precision and nonprecision approaches, whose minimums are above that forecast for the alternate at ETA, with the appropriate fuel reserves.

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