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VFR vs. IFR, What’s the Difference?

By Blue Line Aviation on Nov 3, 2021 6:00:00 AM

The better you understand the fundamental differences between VFR (Visual Flight Rules) and IFR (Instrumental Flight Rules), the more effective you can be as a pilot. Every flight uses either one or both of these categories. There are a few fundamental differences between the two that can significantly impact your ability to fly in certain conditions. Here’s what you need to know about the two, their differences, and choosing between them.

What are the Differences Between VFR and IFR?

The primary difference between VFR and IFR involves meteorological conditions. VFR flights rely on your ability to see what’s going on outside the plane. In other words, they require nice weather and clear skies ahead. Pilots using VFR should avoid cloudy conditions and low visibility situations.

IFR flights, in contrast, can operate in IMC (instrument meteorological conditions), otherwise known as weather conditions, that require pilots to rely on instrumentation for the duration of their flights. One thing to consider is that it is possible to fly IFR when the skies are clear, even though it isn’t possible to fly under VFR during inclement weather.

Note: IFR flights are also used as an agreement between pilots and ATC, where the pilot agrees to listen to ATC guidance and stay as predictable as possible, and in return, ATC will provide traffic and obstacle separation services for that pilot’s flight.


How do VFR and IFR Differences Affect Flight Planning?

The two sets of flight rules have a profound effect on your flight planning. For instance, if you aren’t instrument-rated, the scope of flights you can plan is limited according to time and weather conditions.

However, VFR pilots have wider options when it comes to flying routes, choosing their altitude, etc. VFR pilots are even allowed to travel through some special use airspace without requiring specific clearance to do so. However, they must verify that the airspace is not active prior to entering.

On the other hand, IFR pilots must follow exact pre-planned flight routes with deviations only allowed for emergencies and weather diversions. This flight route is typically chosen by the pilot, but can be adjusted by ATC at any point during the flight. For the most part, air traffic control expects you to fly exactly according to the clearance you were granted under IFR.


Choosing to Fly IFR vs. VFR

While both flight options offer distinct benefits, strengths, and weaknesses, various factors might affect your decision to fly under IFR or VFR, including the following:

  • Aircraft equipment and instrumentation.
  • Current forecast and weather conditions.
  • Goals of the flight.

Student pilots and instructors will remain VFR when conducting cross-country flights while training for their private pilot certification.


Get Instrument Rated at Blue Line Aviation

Blue Line Aviation’s instrument training course is approved by the FAA under Part 141. It offers both in-flight training and training via our Redbird FMX full-motion flight simulators. Pilots can complete our accelerated part 141 course and obtain instrument ratings in as few as 10 days. We also offer a Part 61 finish-up course and more. Pricing for our instrument rating course can be found here. Pilots with some cross-country PIC or instrument time may be able to complete the course at a lower price. Contact us today to learn more about advancing your piloting career.

Blue Line Aviation, established in 2012, is one of only a few flight schools in the world to provide quality flight training programs at an accelerated pace. In as few as five and a half months, students can go from no experience to fully confident and certified pilots, fully prepared for a career in aviation. Schedule a tour of our new state-of-the-art facility (located at 3149B Swift Creek Road, Smithfield, North Carolina) and let your new career take flight. For more inquiries and additional information, please visit our website, find us on social media, or contact Ashley Tucker, our Vice President of Sales and Marketing, at (919) 578-3713 ext. 305.