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3 Answers

Best way to file IFR for gaining proficiency in the clouds

Asked by: 4642 views Instrument Rating

I just recieved my instrument rating and the majority of flying I've done under an IFR flight plan is a standard flight, airport to airport.  Recently we've had some days here where the weather would be perfect for getting some cloud time (3000 foot ceiling with tops at 5000), but I'm not sure the best way to file IFR to go out and utilize the practice area and shoot local approaches. Would I be better of filing airport to airport and request vectors for multiple approaches or get a pop-up with block altitude for manuevers once airborn? Any advice for easing my way into some clouds would be appreciated.

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3 Answers

  1. Kris Kortokrax on Oct 21, 2011

    With a 3000′ ceiling, practicing approaches would be difficult.  You would likely not be in the clouds during the approach.  With a lower ceiling, if you just want to stay in the local area and practice approaches at your home airport, you can file to a fix from which you can navigate to fly a local approach (IAF or a VOR, NDB, RNAV fix from which a transition route exists).  In the Remarks portion of the flight plan, place the words “Multiple practice approaches” to give ATC a heads up.  Then have a plan, so you can advise ATC which approaches you plan to fly in sequence and how they will terminate (landing or another approach).
    Not sure what maneuvers you want to practice in the clouds.  Hopefully, not unusual attitudes at this point.  At the pre-ATP level, where steep turns and stalls are performed without visual reference, there are no maneuvers to practice.  Holds and intercepts can be accomplished during the course of performing an approach.

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  2. Matt Williams on Oct 21, 2011

    Kris – Thanks for the info. Filing to the initial approach fix sounds good. I actually plan on flying the full approach in the clouds with a CFI, but really wanted to gauge my susceptibility to spatial disorientation by simply going up and popping in/out of the clouds with decent altitude below me. In the few hours of actual I received during my training I did struggle with being spatially disoriented and was really just looking for the safest and most convenient way to ease my way into some IMC. Thanks!

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  3. Mark Sanderson on Oct 21, 2011

    Hi Matt,
    In your post you didn’t mention if your home field was controlled or uncontrolled, or what type of airspace.
    If controlled, you can go to clearance delivery or ground control, depending which is used to issue IFR clearances at your airport, and request a VFR on Top clearance to your local practice area.
    After take-off, tower will turn you over to departure who will ask you to report VFR on Top and give you vectors to your practice area. Remember though, VFR on Top is a VFR altitude (+500 ft) and is at least 1000 feet above the undercast.  Once VFR on Top and you notify departure, they will cancel your IFR clearance.  When canceled, however, make sure you tell them you’ll be back with them in a bit. They may even have you remain on the existing txpndr code.
    As you’re now VFR above the cloud deck you can take some time and practice some maneuvers like a hold, DME arc, time turns, etc. You must remain VFR though.
    When you’re ready to go back “home”, just contact departure with an IFR pop-up clearance request for the approach(s) that you would like to do.  If more than one, provide them the sequence of the approaches and how each will terminate until the final approach and the full stop.
    Departure may even “welcome you back”, and then provide you with your IFR clearance for the approach.
    Writing the above is certainly more complicated than actually flying the procedure!!
    Have fun practicing!

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