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Using The System

Source:, Featuring John Krug

Subscriber question:

"Can a pilot use the IFR system if he is non-rated just to help out in VFR weather?"
- Ken A.


"While a non-rated pilot cannot file an IFR flight plan, the rest of the system is available to assist the VFR pilot. It is good practice and preparation if you decide to advance to obtaining your instrument rating. Some suggested practices include:

First, obtain a complete preflight weather briefing including checking NOTAMs.

Then file a VFR flight plan. This is an excellent low cost insurance policy. The cost is the time it takes to fill it out. The insurance includes the knowledge that someone will be looking for you if you become overdue at your destination.

Use ATC Flight Following whenever available. Radar equipped facilities can provide additional services such as traffic and weather advisories.

Additionally, some Flight Service Stations provide flight monitoring where regularly traveled VFR routes cross large bodies of water, swamps, and mountains. This service, known as Hazardous Area Reporting Service is provided for expeditiously alerting Search and Rescue facilities when required. See the AIM Paragraph 4-1-21 for more information.

When flying VFR at night, in addition to the altitude appropriate for the direction of flight, you should maintain an altitude which is at or above the minimum enroute altitude as shown on (low altitude IFR) charts. This is especially true in mountainous terrain, when there is usually very little ground reference. Do not depend on your eyes alone to avoid rising unlighted terrain, or even lighted obstructions such as TV towers."

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