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5 Answers

IFR or VFR?

Asked by: 2620 views Instrument Rating

I just flew with a fellow CFI into Reno's Class C airspace. We requested practice instrument ILSs in VMC. Since we did not file an IFR flight plan, I maintain that we were operating under VFR and my counterpart is certain that we were IFR. Any insight?

5 Answers



  1. John D. Collins on Sep 09, 2012

    You can file and obtain an IFR clearance to perform practice approache(s) or you can request a practice approach without an IFR clearance. In the latter case, you must remain VFR and comply with the applicable FAR’s for VFR.

    From JO 7110.65U (the controller manual), controllers are given the following instruction:

    “5. All VFR aircraft must be instructed to maintain VFR on initial contact or as soon as possible thereafter.

    NOTE− This advisory is intended to remind the pilot that even though ATC is providing IFR-type instructions, the pilot is responsible for compliance with the applicable parts of the
    CFR governing VFR flight.”

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  2. Matthew on Sep 09, 2012

    To put it very simply, if you are IFR, then you are IFR. If it is not IFR, then it is assumed to be VFR. The prerequisites for IFR flight are laid out in the following section of 14 CFR:

    § 91.173 ATC clearance and flight plan required.
    No person may operate an aircraft in controlled airspace under IFR unless that person has
    (a) Filed an IFR flight plan; and
    (b) Received an appropriate ATC clearance.

    So if you did not do/get those things, and everything else was legal, you were VFR.

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  3. Nathan Parker on Sep 09, 2012

    “Since we did not file an IFR flight plan, I maintain that we were operating under VFR and my counterpart is certain that we were IFR. Any insight?”

    You don’t have to file an IFR flight plan with flight service in order to be IFR. A TRACON can enter into their computer an “abbreviated flight plan” in order to provide what you and I call a “popup” IFR clearance. I’ve used this on occasion with our local class B if there were clouds at the altitude we needed for practice approaches, or to climb above or below an overcast.

    That said, you have to ask specifically for an IFR clearance. When they give it to you, they will give you a clearance much like what you would receive when picking up an IFR clearance from ground control. “Cessna 1234X, you’re cleared to the XXX airport via radar vectors…”

    If you didn’t specifically ask for an IFR clearance, then you were VFR.

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  4. Gordon Bower on Sep 10, 2012

    At my local tower, when you request a practice ILS approach, the tower’s reply is “cleared for VFR ILS approach” or words to similar effect – explicitly reminding you your safety pilot must maintain visual separation, etc.

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  5. Steven P McNicoll on Oct 04, 2012

    You don’t have to file a flight plan to operate IFR, but you do need to be cleared to some point. No clearance limit, no IFR clearance, and you should also be advised to maintain VFR.

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