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I'm doing training for an instrument rating, and I'm thinking I'd like to do some solo VFR cross country flying and do some practice instrument approaches. The C152 I'll be flying doesn't have a GPS installed, but I'll have ForeFlight on my iPad. Since I'm VFR, could I request a practice LNAV approach from ATC and use my iPad to navigate the approach? I realize this isn't quite as good as doing hood training in an aircraft with GPS, but I think it will be of some use to me in my training.

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In the US, there are no regulations prohibiting you from using an iPad for navigation while flying VFR. There are also no regulations specifying what equipment you must use for a practice approach. The key to this is that it is a practice approach. Therefore, it is flown VFR. Even if you were an IFR-rated pilot in an IFR aircraft under the hood/foggles, your safety pilot would be VFR.

If you fly that same approach IFR (whether IMC or VMC), then it is an actual approach even when done as a practice approach. Just the ATC expectations are changed. Flying IFR would require the proper TSOed navigational equipment.

One word of caution would be that this might not be a safe practice flying solo. It would be best to have your iPad mounted somehow to make it hands-free. You should also practice this with your CFI (preferably) or a safety pilot first.

It would also be unwise to have to switch back and forth from the approach chart to your Foreflight AHRS screen on the same iPad. You are in a critical phase of flight. Doing what you plan would be an unnecessary distraction and a violation of the Part 91 sterile cockpit strong recommendation (not a regulation for Part 91, yet). Either print your approach charts or carry two iPads.

Some guidance for practice approaches is provided in AIM 4-3-21.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think this (and the answer below) are the right way of thinking about it. There might be some benefit, but it won't be quite the same practice as doing an approach under the hood with the right equipment. And flying VFR means that I'm responsible to see and avoid, which will be more difficult if I'm looking at the iPad and switching back and forth on the screen. So maybe I'd be better off to do a real practice approach with a safety pilot, which would also be cheaper because we'd split the cost. $\endgroup$
    – SurfandSky
    Mar 3 at 19:22
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One other thing I would add to this is you aren't following a CDI which on an LNAV approach provides your lateral guidance from GPS. The CDI scales down for approaches so it's more sensitive. Following the iPad doesn't give you this. So while perfectly legal VFR, I don't really see a lot of training value in this, since it really doesn't simulate doing an actual IFR approach other than stepping down in altitude at each fix which you can do anywhere you want VFR.

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Yes, you can do this. As Ralph J says, "You're VFR, do whatever". That said, you should understand what you are getting and not getting from this practice.

On the Plus side:

  • You are practicing interaction with ATC
  • You are being introduced to a diverse set of procedures

On the Minus side:

  • You are practicing use of navigation which is illegal under IFR.
  • You are getting neither simulated, nor actual IMC time in your logbook unless certain conditions are met.

I'd say, go for it with while understanding the benefits and limitations of what you are doing.

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I do it all the time. You can fly VFR with any device or no device.

A couple of things that I’ve noticed. If you request a VFR practice approach and they approve it, they’ll fit you into the traffic flow just like IFR traffic. They may give you vectors to fit faster traffic into the flow—which is great practice.

If you just fly the RNAV and don’t tell them what you are doing, they sometimes give me 360° turns for faster or slower traffic. But they don’t know that I’m trying to track the approach so they are doing whatever it takes to keep traffic flowing.

I usually inform ATC of my intent when I’m a couple of miles from the IAF so they have time to clear me for the approach. Again, if you don’t tell them you want an approach they may just assume you are headed for the airport and hand you off to the tower where you might get told to fly a base or downwind entry.

As long as you communicate your intentions and use the magic words, “Remain VFR” it works fine.

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