64 votes
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Why does flying IFR require a rating?

The short and sweet answer to this question: That kind of thinking is what kills a lot of pilots. A non-instrument rated pilot may know how to fly and navigate but does not yet have the skill to do ...
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39 votes
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What happens when a pilot has no Instrument Rating and visibility drops?

It is very rare for weather to go IMC unexpectedly. A responsible pilot should see that weather is deteriorating, and begin planning for the nearest available landing. If they cannot find a landing,...
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  • 28.5k
34 votes

When flying VFR without GPS, how do pilots know if they are inside controlled airspace or not?

VFR aviation maps called "sectionals" (and now GPS map displays) depict the types of airspace through borders with different colors and dashed lines. You can buy or download the maps for free from ...
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  • 11.3k
31 votes
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Why fly VFR at all?

(This answer is based on light aircraft in the US.) Leaving aside any scenarios where you must file IFR (class A, IMC) and any where you can't (pilot and/or aircraft not IFR-capable), it comes down ...
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  • 70.4k
31 votes

Why does flying IFR require a rating?

Because it is very difficult to navigate with instruments alone. I just wished to illustrate to you by giving you an example. (These are flight simulation images, but should illustrate the idea well.)...
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  • 39.3k
29 votes

How can pilots lacking instruments interpret vectors given by ATC?

14 CFR Part 25 describes the requirements for an airliner like the 737 to be certified by the FAA. §25.1303 Flight and navigation instruments. (a) The following flight and navigation instruments ...
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  • 69.8k
28 votes

What happens when a pilot has no Instrument Rating and visibility drops?

A visual pilot flying into instrument conditions is a serious emergency. It's much better to avoid the situation in the first place which is why there's a significant amount of training around ...
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  • 50.3k
27 votes
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Can I fly "into" the Grand Canyon?

The answer is: no, normal flights are not allowed under the canyon rim. If you look at the sectional chart, you see this notice: Searching through the CFR (Title 14, Part 91) brings up this Special ...
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  • 69.8k
26 votes

Why does flying IFR require a rating?

Once in the air, the pilot's most basic task in manipulating the controls is to keep the airplane right side up. As it turns out, this is much easier to do when we have reference to an outside real ...
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  • 38.7k
26 votes

How can pilots lacking instruments interpret vectors given by ATC?

As fooot has described, the aircraft has a mechanical compass, which will work even if the electrical systems fail. Though unlikely, it is possible to imagine a situation where the crew of an aircraft ...
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25 votes
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Which source to use when reporting the current altitude to ATC?

When asked for altitude, you report the altimeter reading, utilizing the correct barometric pressure entered into the Kollsman window. ATC separates traffic based upon indicated altitude. The ...
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  • 17.4k
23 votes
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May a non-instrument pilot legally file IFR as long as he amends and doesn’t accept an instrument clearance?

My instrument students, when they get more advanced, file FP with their name, and in remarks say "Training xxxxxx CFII" That way it is clear. The FAA office investigated one student, dug up his ...
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  • 17.4k
23 votes
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How accurate must fuel gauges be for VFR flight?

The indicator must be calibrated to read zero when that tank is actually empty of all usable fuel (in level flight). Bouncing is fine as long as they do not bounce when the tank is actually empty. ...
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  • 5,898
23 votes

Why do helicopter operations avoid IFR?

Helicopters do not avoid IFR. They will, however, try to avoid IMC for safety reasons. The same is true for airplanes in the same weight class. Just because the pilot is IFR rated and the aircraft is ...
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  • 16.3k
22 votes

What is the best procedure for landing at my destination if I have a full electrical failure at night?

Here's an investigation report on this very sort of thing in Canada. Note that the standard procedure to alert ATC that you have a total electrical/comms failure is to fly a left hand triangle twice ...
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  • 107k
21 votes
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May I enter Class C airspace if I'm told "remain VFR"?

Yes, you were allowed to enter the class C in that case, but you weren't cleared to do it because no clearance is needed to operate in class C, just communication with ATC. The AIM 3-2-4 has the best ...
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  • 70.4k
21 votes
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Why must IFR be cancelled?

It's all about making sure everybody knows what's going on. While you are on an instrument approach and thus flying IFR, ATC is responsible for spacing you, giving instructions on heading and speed in ...
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  • 22.3k
21 votes

Under VFR, can a pilot fly above a layer of clouds?

Yes, it's legal to operate under VFR without any visual reference to the surface. It's called operating VFR over-the-top, not to be confused with VFR-on-top which is an IFR clearance. Over-the-top is ...
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  • 70.4k
20 votes
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How would ATC try to establish contact with a VFR craft?

Long story short, ATC has no reason to contact you but if they were to try they'd probably use 121.5 (see below). You're not in their airspace and the whole purpose of that airspace is to ensure ...
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  • 70.4k
20 votes

When flying VFR without GPS, how do pilots know if they are inside controlled airspace or not?

Use of a sectional chart and pilotage. You will have to be aware of where you are using ground references while cross referencing where the boundaries of controlled airspace lies in relation to those ...
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19 votes
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Who to call for flight following?

When you request flight following generally you contact the facility (either approach or center) responsible for the airspace you're in, so your real question is "How the heck do I know whose airspace ...
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  • 67.4k
19 votes
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How can I learn about unpublished VFR reporting points?

Wait until the frequency isn't terribly busy on one of your flights, then just: "Unfamiliar with Creek waypoint, Request clarification" You can reasonably expect them to either explain the waypoint, ...
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  • 28.5k
19 votes

How can I easily keep track of my landing count during pattern work?

The trick my CFI taught me is to use your Course Deviation Indicator or ADF to keep track of landings. After your first landing, bug a course of 010. After your second landing, bug 020. You can reach ...
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  • 521
19 votes

Is there a minimum density a cloud must attain before it is, legally speaking, a cloud?

To answer the question in the title, A cloud is a visible aggregate of minute water droplets and/or ice particles per FAA AC-006B, page 105. If you can see it, it's a cloud. More practically (not a ...
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18 votes

How can a private pilot prepare for a long cross country flight in an unfamiliar area?

I'm in a similar boat to you and I just did my first XC from KDYL to KDDH a few months ago. Which was the first time I had been to an airport I did not go to during training. It was a lot of fun but ...
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  • 96.3k
18 votes

Which source to use when reporting the current altitude to ATC?

You should generally report what you see on your altimeter (at least that is what i was always instructed to do) but this presumes that you are up to date on your local pressure settings (which you ...
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  • 96.3k
18 votes

When flying VFR without GPS, how do pilots know if they are inside controlled airspace or not?

Generally: By Using a (Physical) Map Aviation charts have landmarks and airspaces on them, which you can use to estimate where you're at. Other answers give great examples of this already, I don't ...
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  • 301
18 votes
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Are commercial VFR flights legal?

It depends on the operator's "opspecs" which are negotiated between them and the FAA. Generally in the US the vast majority of part 121 scheduled airline operations are required to be IFR, but plenty ...
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  • 4,561
18 votes

Why do helicopter operations avoid IFR?

Helicopter IFR operations do exist, but the short answer to the thrust of your question is: helicopter IFR is inherently more dangerous than fixed-wing IFR due to the lack of stability. A properly ...
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  • 13.2k
17 votes

How can pilots fly VFR over-the-top in overcast conditions?

I've flown VFR-on-top plenty of times. Navigation is simple: even the most basic airplane is required to have at the very least a compass, a clock and an airspeed indicator, which can be used to ...
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  • 401

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