IFR Overview
Courtesy of Andrew Ayers

IFR is an acronym for Instrument Flight Rules. As the name indicates, IFR is a system of rules for operating via instrument reference. Most people equate IFR with poor weather flying, but in reality, most IFR flying is done in perfectly good weather conditions. IFR is designed to allow safe operations in weather conditions that don't allow adequate visual reference, but if you are instrument rated, you're free to operate under IFR at any time, provided you're current and your aircraft is properly equipped. Because we're going to be flying a sim, there are a lot of things we can get away with. So, there is a lot of information which you would learn in a real instrument ground school which you won't need for our purposes. However, I know that many of you are interested beyond just what you need to know, so I'll make mention of references which will provide more information. My purpose in these lessons is just to give the necessary information to properly fly IFR procedures, not to make everyone IFR experts.

So what is this IFR "system" that we'll be talking about? What makes it up and where do we fit into it? IFR flying isn't as abstract as some think it is. It's principles are simple, your attitude instruments tell you how to keep the plane upright and flying, your navigation instruments tell you how to get where you're going, and ATC and timing keep you from running into everyone else.

Until we get to the lesson about GPS procedures, we'll be discussing ground-based navigational aids, namely VORs and NDBs and when we get to approaches, the Localizer and Glideslope. So, an understanding of how to use these aids(tuning, tracking, etc.) will be fundamental to your ability to operate safely IFR. See below for references on this material.

Now, getting back to the system... The entire enroute IFR system is based on the VOR. We will be flying along imaginary highways called "airways" which are made up of radials to and from various VORs. Now, you can see how this could get restrictive and indirect when you can only fly VOR to VOR. However, you may fly direct from one navigational aid to another even if it's not a published airway, so there are ways to go as directly as possible. We'll discuss how to go about doing this when we get to flight planning. Your enroute chart is just like a "roadmap" of the skies and we'll be using it to figure out what airways to take to get from one place to another. At this point, it's probably still a little vague as to how it all fits together. As you can see by the syllabus, we'll be discussing each part of a flight separately and then putting it all together on a complete flight plan lesson in the end.

As I stated above, IFR is a system of rules, so if you want to operate under IFR, you need to be familiar with those rules. In the sim, we aren't bound by those rules, so we don't really need to know them all inside and out. For realism purposes, I will discuss some of the rules applicable to particular operations when we reach that part of the lessons, but if you're interested in more in-depth discussion, I'll just refer you to your copy of the F.A.R.s. Start with 91.167 and read through 91.187. Those rules discuss particular things you must do to be operating legally under IFR. Also review Chapters 3,4,5 of the A.I.M. Those discuss ATC and accepted methods of operation.

We should also be familiar with how the navigation aids we will use operate. It's not necessary to fully understand how an ILS works in order to properly fly one, but it is good practice to know what you're dealing with and what is actually happening to the instruments during your flights. Read Chapter 1 of the A.I.M. or Chapter VII of the Instrument Flying Handbook for detailed information on how these various types of equipment operate.

Another important facet on instrument operations is properly scanning and interpreting what the instruments are telling you. A good scan is key to safe IFR operations. In the sim, we can always pause or turn on the autopilot, so it's not as big of a deal, but for those of you who like to hand fly most of the time, you should develop a proper scanning technique. For information on how to do this, please see Chapters IV and V of the Instrument Flying Handbook.

So, that will give you a good background on what we're going to discuss in the future lessons. Don't feel like this is necessary reading however. Each lesson will contain all the information necessary to fly what's covered in that particular lesson. If you feel lost or that information hasn't been properly covered, please let me know and I'll provide more support and information. Most of all,  have fun and PLEASE, let me know what you want to see. I'm doing this to help out, so please let me know if you feel a different approach is necessary to better facilitate learning.


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