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According to this FAA ruling a pilot can operate an aircraft under an IFR flight plan even if the aircraft is not IFR certified, provided the operation occurs in VMC.

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What the ruling doesn't differentiate is whether the pilot doing that operation must be an IFR rated pilot (the ruling is with respect to instrument training, which implies there will be a properly rated CFII onboard).

I can't find the regulation that states that you must have an IFR rating to accept an IFR clearance/operate on an IFR flight plan. So, my questions are:

  1. What regulation (if there is one) requires a pilot to have an IFR rating in order to operate an aircraft on an IFR flight plan?
  2. Would a "VMC only" modifier change this requirement?
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Operating as PIC under IFR always requires an instrument rating and currency, regardless of flight conditions.

14 CFR 61.3(e) requires the rating, and there's no exception for VFR conditions:

(e) Instrument rating. No person may act as pilot in command of a civil aircraft under IFR or in weather conditions less than the minimums prescribed for VFR flight unless that person holds:

(1) The appropriate aircraft category, class, type (if required), and instrument rating on that person's pilot certificate for any airplane, helicopter, or powered-lift being flown;

61.57(c) requires instrument currency, again regardless of flight conditions:

(c) Instrument experience. Except as provided in paragraph (e) of this section, a person may act as pilot in command under IFR or weather conditions less than the minimums prescribed for VFR only if:

See this question for more details on filing IFR flight plans without being instrument rated (not a good idea).

Michael Hall suggested in a comment that some pilots might think that to operate under IFR they only need to file a flight plan and get a clearance, because of the wording in 91.173:

No person may operate an aircraft in controlled airspace under IFR unless that person has—

(a) Filed an IFR flight plan; and

(b) Received an appropriate ATC clearance.

However, 91.173 doesn't override or invalidate any other regulation. The general rule is that regulations add up and you have to follow all of them unless the wording makes it clear that something doesn't apply (e.g. 91.1(e) says that part 91 regulations don't apply to part 103 ultralights).

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  • $\begingroup$ Good answer. I was typing mine and didn’t notice that you had responded. (Just so you didn’t think I was trying to “compete” for upvotes with the same quote!) I will delete my answer because it is a dupe and you got there first, but do you think it might be worth mentioning 91.173? Because I think that is the source of people thinking it’s OK to do... $\endgroup$ – Michael Hall Sep 4 at 0:02
  • $\begingroup$ @MichaelHall No problem :-) There's only one regulation, but there's more than one way to explain it! As for 91.173, that's a great point and I'll add something about that. $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Sep 4 at 4:17

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