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"weather conditions less than the minimums prescribed for VFR flight" has repeatedly come up in FAR chapters pertaining to IFR.

One example is 61.3 (e):

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 ...

Why does it specify IFR and "in weather conditions less than the minimums prescribed for VFR flight" separately? Doesn't IFR cover all "in weather conditions less than the minimums prescribed for VFR flight" cases (though I know that the reverse is not necessarily true)? So what's the significance of a separate clause for "in weather conditions less than the minimums prescribed for VFR flight"?

Clarify my question: Yes, I understand that IFR can occur in either VMC or IMC. But my question is shouldn't all IMC happen under IFR (at least legally)?

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  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Oct 5, 2022 at 7:53

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Your clarified question : "...shouldn't all IMC happen under IFR (at least legally)?"

Answer: Yes, if you are legally operating in IMC you must be flying under IFR.

NOTE: The OP has reworded/clarified his earlier question.


With respect to your core question: "So what's the significance of a separate clause for "in weather conditions less than the minimums prescribed for VFR flight"?

In my opinion, two separate clauses are required (operating under IFR or in weather conditions less than the minimums prescribed for VFR flight).

As an example, if a pilot was flying in VMC (let's say in controlled airspace) and entered an area of reduced visibility (e.g., 2 miles) and was not operating on a IFR flight plan or had received an IFR clearance the pilot would therefore be operating (illegally) in IMC but not operating under "IFR" (Instrument flight rules as defined in the Pilot/Controller Glossary ), which is the first clause.

Instead, the pilot would be operating (illegally) "in weather conditions less than the minimums prescribed for VFR flight," which is the second clause. The second clause is necessary because in this example the first clause does not apply because the pilot was not operating under IFR.

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    $\begingroup$ Uhh I think we are talking about the same thing - IFR covers all IMC situations but IMC doesn't cover all IFR cases $\endgroup$
    – Hot.PxL
    Oct 4, 2022 at 13:52
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    $\begingroup$ Uhh I think you said it backwards. Any (legal) IMC is under IFR, but not all IFRs are under IMC $\endgroup$
    – Hot.PxL
    Oct 4, 2022 at 15:12
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Doesn't IFR cover all "in weather conditions less than the minimums prescribed for VFR flight" cases (though I know that the reverse is not necessarily true)?

As your question astutely implies, the fact that IFR flight may be conducted in VMC is irrelevant to the interpretation of the regulation.

The regulation would clearly apply to all IFR flight even if the clause about "or in weather conditions less than the minimums prescribed for VFR flight" had been omitted.

So the clause is not needed to account for the possibility of IFR flight in VMC conditions.

The clause about "or in weather conditions less than the minimums prescribed for VFR flight" (key word "or", not "and") expands the scope of the regulation to include pilots illegally flying under Visual Flight Rules in inadequate weather conditions. No other pilots would be included by this clause, who would not already have been included by the regulation as it would read had the clause been omitted.

Either the FAA didn't think this one through very clearly, or they thought it appropriate to have the regulation be broad enough to impose an additional violation, upon pilots who were already violating other regulations, by illegally flying VFR in inadequate weather conditions.

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