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7 Answers

Obstacle avoidance under positive radar contact ifr vmc

Asked by: 1726 views FAA Regulations, Instrument Rating

Where is it written that an aircraft on an ifr flight plain with radar contact is still responsible to not hit vfr aircraft? I have spent hours online searching for this. ATC here always says something about looking out for such and such aircraft near me when i’m ifr. I thought the whole idea of being on an ifr flight plain meant that you were expecting obstacle clearance 100% of the time while under positive radar contact.

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7 Answers



  1. Koehn on Jun 02, 2013

    You are PIC, which means you are solely responsible for the safe outcome of the flight. ATC vectors you into the side of a mountain in IMC? Your fault; you shouldn’t have accepted the clearance. In VMC even in RADAR contact there can be aircraft with no transponder (or no mode C), hang gliders with very little radar profile, etc. It’s your job to make sure you don’t hit them, not ATC’s.

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  2. David on Jun 02, 2013

    Ignoring the regs for a moment, consider what ATC actually does. ATC provides separation between other IFR flights. If you are flying in IFR conditions you should be able to have confidence that ATC is issuing clearances that maintain separation between all IFR flights operating within the vicinity. However, in VFR conditions outside of certain airspace (e.g., Class B) ATC does not control airplanes operating under VFR rules and cannot maintain separation. Even a VFR flight on flight following has discretion to climb and descend or change course in its discretion and can climb or descend or change course into the path of an IFR flight (although one would hope the pilot would advise ATC before the change in altitude or course so the controller could advise whether a conflict might result). As noted in Koehn’s answer, flights on VFR not on flight following may not have a transponder and in any event in airspace in which such a flight can operate it is the IFR pilots responsibility to see and avoid even while on an IFR flight plan.

    All that said, traffic guidance from a controller is almost always an exercise in caution rather than a call out of an actual potential collision. Usually the flight is 500 feet above or below and the controller is alerting you to the traffic to protect against the possibility that the Mode C return is incorrect and the separation is less than it appears. In theory there should be very few instances where a VFR and IFR flight are operating at the same altitude on a collision course (usually only within the minutes surrounding departure and arrival) if everyone is following the rules correctly.

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  3. Jonathan Holland on Jun 02, 2013

    That’s not what I asked. I asked where is it written that if i’m vmc on an ifr flight plain, that I am supposed to be looking out the window not at my instruments for other aircraft? (radar environment) If I were in the clouds I couldn’t look out the window!

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  4. Jonathan Holland on Jun 02, 2013

    plan

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  5. Best Answer


    Mark Kolber on Jun 03, 2013

    where is it written that if iā€™m vmc on an ifr flight plain, that I am supposed to be looking out the window not at my instruments for other aircraft?

    91.113(b):

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  6. Mark Kolber on Jun 03, 2013

    Just noticed:
    I thought the whole idea of being on an ifr flight plain meant that you were expecting obstacle clearance 100% of the time

    You are. But you may be confusing “obstacle clearance” with “traffic separation” and perhaps even with “terrain clearance.” They are different concepts and whether “traffic separation exists with respect to VFR aircraft depends on the airspace. That’s most of the idea of the different types of airspace – to assign varying degrees of ATC separation duties.

    But sorry, even full separation of IFR and VFR aircraft doesn’t remove your responsibility under 91.113(b) (not to mention yourself, your passengers and your and their families) to see an avoid traffic when you can.

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  7. Jonathan Holland on Jul 05, 2013

    The Aim says it best. Thank you for responding to my question. AOPA just put out an article that said in black and white what I was looking for and it’s basically what you have drawn out of the FAR 91.113B. I think the AIM in this case is more direct.
    5āˆ’5āˆ’8. See and Avoid
    a. Pilot. When meteorological conditions permit,
    regardless of type of flight plan or whether or not
    under control of a radar facility, the pilot is
    responsible to see and avoid other traffic, terrain, or
    obstacles.

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