Every pilot relies on visual flight rules while flying in fair weather conditions. This set of specific regulations is important for airline pilots during flight planning and when they operate an aircraft. This guide explains everything student pilots should know about these rules.
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What Are Visual Flight Rules (VFR)?
In aviation, pilots who have a clear, birds-eye view of the ground below are flying in what’s known as VFR. They use the landmarks below, such as lakes and roads, for visual reference along the flight route. VFR pilots need good visibility for the entire flight time so they can successfully identify and steer clear of other aircraft.
In order to fly in VFR, pilots must meet a number of criteria for a given airspace. This includes certain weather patterns, a precise altitude, and limited traffic.
What Weather Conditions Must Exist for a VFR Flight?
When it comes to VFR, weather and visibility are the two key factors for any pilot. Basic VFR weather calls for good in-flight visibility, meaning no fog or heavy rain.
The plane should keep clear of clouds and remain at least 1,000 feet above the surface during daytime flights and 2,000 feet above ground level at night. The pilot should maintain visibility of three statute miles during the day and five miles at night to fly under Visual Flight Rules.
Not every situation will meet the ideal VFR conditions. Pilots facing adverse weather conditions, such as low visibility or temperature swings, will need to adjust their plans. They should fly at an altitude that’s a good distance from clouds and, if necessary, operate their airplane under an IFR flight plan.
Visual Flight Rules vs. Instrument Flight Rules
When the conditions aren’t suitable for VFR flying, pilots must adjust their flight plan or switch to Instrument Flight Rules, or IFR flying. This means that the pilot can’t sufficiently spot other aircraft and will need to navigate the airplane using special equipment and control towers.
Private and commercial airline pilots will need to undergo further training for instrument flying. You may operate an aircraft in IFR only after receiving IFR clearance from air traffic control. This is the primary form of flying for commercial jets and cargo planes occupying the Class A airspace, which covers a specific altitude mean sea level. Class A begins at 18,000 feet MSL and extends to 60,000 feet.
Unlike an IFR flight plan, you typically don’t need to receive any clearance to fly under VFR. There are some exceptions, however. Entering a controlled airspace, such as a Special Use airspace, will require the go-ahead from air traffic control.
Required Equipment for Visual Flight Rules
VFR requires every pilot and aircraft to have the proper equipment on board both for safety and navigational purposes. This includes the following:
- Two-way radio and communication equipment: This enables the pilot to make contact with nearby control towers or other aircraft.
- Airspeed indicator: Whether you fly in VFR or IFR, an airspeed indicator is necessary for measuring the velocity of the plane’s speed.
- Altimeter: The pilot can accurately determine their altitude above sea level with an altimeter aboard the plane.
- Compass: VFR calls for the pilot to use visual references, but a compass promotes successful navigation.
In addition to this technology, a pilot should take any items that help them with their visual acuity, such as glasses or contact lenses.
Pros and Cons of VFR
Flying under VFR comes with plenty of advantages. For starters, it can help you become a better pilot since you’ll develop excellent spatial awareness in the air. Building this skill is critical for a successful aviation career.
In addition, VFR gives you control over your decision-making while in the air and makes for a more flexible plan. It allows private or recreational pilots to save money since it doesn’t require the instruments necessary for IFR.
Finally, it means you can enjoy the scenery in the air instead of relying solely on navigational equipment.
Balancing out these advantages of VFR are some key limitations. These rules create risky situations since a pilot must only rely on their own vision, especially if they are yet to build their decision-making skills. If a pilot isn’t trained for IFR, they may need to make last-minute changes to their schedule if conditions aren’t suitable for VFR.
Learn the Basics of Air Traffic Control, Creating a Flight Plan, and More at Leopard Aviation
Becoming a commercial pilot requires intense focus and training. You must learn the basics of visual flight rules, VFR flight plan creation, and how to conduct an IFR flight when there aren’t great visual meteorological conditions. At Leopard Aviation, our seasoned pilots will teach you everything you need to know.
Enroll today, and you’ll learn about type rating in aviation, why restricted areas exist in a given airspace, and much more. Call us at (480) 372-9815 for more information. Get the training you need today.