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3 Answers

Obstacle Clearance when departing VFR on an IFR Flight Plan

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Instrument Rating

When departing an airport on an IFR flight plan I often request a shortcut to intercept the airway versus turning around towards the VOR. "Are you able to maintain your own terrain and obstruction clearance" is the question ATC will ask me after requesting the shortcut. My question is: if I accept the responsibility of maintaining my own terrain and obstruction clearance do I have to maintain VMC or can my aircraft performance allow me to be IMC?

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3 Answers



  1. Paul on Jul 28, 2010

    The answer can be found on page 2-34 of the Instrument Procedures Handbook under “VFR Depature”:

    “Maintain VFR until you have obtained your IFR clearance and have ATC approval to proceed on course in accordance with your clerance. If you accept this clearance and are below the minimum IFR altitude for operations in your area, you accept responsibility for terrain / obstruction clerance until you reach that altitude.”

    It sounds like your shortcut, might place you below the “minimum IFR altitude for operations in your area” which is why ATC is asking you to maintain your own obstacle and terrain clearance which means you must remain in VMC conditions.

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  2. Matthew Waugh on Jul 29, 2010

    I’m not sure a “VFR Departure” is the subject of the question. The question says “departing an airport on an IFR flight plan” which implies that a clearance has already been obtained. A VFR departure is for picking up a clearance “in the air”.

    So it can be IMC and, if an ODP is published you would be wise to fly it – although note that it probably will not be part of your ATC clearance. If you choose not to fly the ODP, or if you request a deviation from your clearance and ATC puts the monkey on your back by asking if you can maintain terrain and obstruction clearance then you have to avoid hitting anything, but the FAA and ATC don’t care how you do that. Logically you do it by looking out the window, requiring at least some kind of visual reference, but you can do it by ESP if that works for you.

    This is all Part 91, the FAA doesn’t like us killing paying passengers, but they don’t take much of a position on the death of volunteers.

    So the VFR departure advice is very good, and if you’re going to go wandering around on random routes you’d be well advised to have at least enough visual reference until you reach MVA and establish radar contact, but I’m not sure it’s required.

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  3. David Chappuies on Oct 06, 2011

    It is true that ATC does not care how you take off from the airport unless ATC assigns a departure procedure to you. On the other hand I think you are required to comply with published ODP’s if you have an IFR clearance off the ground. This is why some pilots request a VFR climb out of airports to avoid compliance. This is out of the FAR’s
     
    (3) Except as provided in paragraph (f)(4) of this section, no pilot may takeoff under IFR from a civil airport having published obstacle departure procedures (ODPs) under part 97 of this chapter for the takeoff runway to be used, unless the pilot uses such ODPs or an alternative procedure or route assigned by air traffic control.

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