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IR holders: Would you ever go back to VFR-only and, if so, what would change?

I’ve had the IR since Feb 2006 and used it immediately and fully, for every trip beyond local ones.

I would never want to go back.

The way I did my early long VFR trips (2003-2005, all the way to Crete) was always VMC on top, on oxygen usually, and it created the usual CAS access issues which often got ridiculous e.g. having to cross the Swiss Alps at FL129. Not a single one of those VFR trips was legal VFR, end to end… and I have ever spoken to just one “VFR old-timer” who said, with a straight face, that he was always VMC (he doesn’t post here). Plus all the dirty tricks .g. descending through a cloud layer way out over the sea, to get into some French coastal airports “VFR”.

But I have done several trips down there since, 20hrs airborne time, 100% IFR, and 100% VMC

An interesting Q is whether one can lose the IR for medical reasons but remain VFR capable. It isn’t possible AFAIK if flying on FAA papers because the IR has no additional medical requirements (compared to a full FAA PPL with the normal night privileges). It definitely used to be possible to get buggered if flying on JAA papers, if e.g. you have one bad ear and something went wrong with the back door route you used to get into the system, but AFAIK under current EASA-MED you can have an IR with just one working ear if this is a renewal-medical event and not an initial-medical event.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Peter wrote:

An interesting Q is whether one can lose the IR for medical reasons but remain VFR capable.

In EASA-land you can. Either if you fail the audiogram test as you mention, or because you have to downgrade to a LAPL for medical reasons.

I would never voluntary drop my IR.

ESKC (Uppsala/Sundbro), Sweden

People who fail the audiogram can still hold a Class 1 or Instrument Rating with a Class 2 by passing a functional hearing assessment which is undertaken during a medical flight test or simulator assessment. It is extremely rare to fail this functional hearing assessment.

However if someone was to fail this then they cannot hold a Class 1 or IR with a Class 2.

It is possible to hold a PPL or LAPL for those who fail the normal hearing assessment during the medical, thus being able to fly VFR. Depending on the hearing loss a variety of limitation can be added to the Medical/Licence.

Last Edited by Frank at 21 Jan 22:20

I hold an IR but all my private flying is VFR, and in a no gyros Cub, that means solid VFR. There may be quite a few in a similar situation. The airline crowd who own aircraft at Andrewsfield seem to be of the same persuasion – their aircraft on the whole are either Annex 2 tailwheel types, or Permit aerobatic types – all predominantly gyro-less.

Oxford (EGTK)

Peter wrote:

I’ve had the IR since Feb 2006 and used it immediately and fully, for every trip beyond local ones.

I think given the airspace issues for the kind of trips you make that makes sense. It’s a sad and fundamentally unnecessary situation but it is what it is. In the US it is the opposite, a lot of people have instrument ratings but I don’t know many light aircraft pilots who fly on instrument flight plans except when they have to as a result of weather conditions. In fact most don’t stay current… but OTOH I think they value having the qualification.

I’ve never flown as PIC in IMC, ever, and have no interest at all in IFR, firstly because neither airspace or weather affect me to the degree that would require it. Secondly, and not withstanding my enthusiasm for VFR flying I believe I’d rather be doing something else on the ground versus flying an aircraft on an IFR flight plan in continuous communication and negotiation with the ground.

Last Edited by Silvaire at 22 Jan 00:30

Let us not forget the other reasons for flying even long trips VFR when you have an IR and an IFR aircraft:

  1. Your aircraft weighs more than 2 tonnes, in which case every IFR trip costs about €50/hour more than a VFR one.
  2. The only IFR routing available takes you much further than VFR.
  3. You want greater flexibility of route and altitude than offered by IFR
  4. There are long delays for an IFR clearance.
  5. Freezing level and icing preclude flying at IFR levels.
  6. Upper winds make flight at IFR levels much slower.
  7. ATC industrial action precludes IFR.

For a combination of these reason, I fly about half my long distance routes VFR. Indeed, I shall be flying Biggin Hill to Teuge VFR in about 90 minutes, for a combination of the above reasons but mainly 1. I can go in a straight line at FL55, so why would I not?

Although VFR used to be much, much harder to plan and execute than IFR, with SkyDemon that is no longer the case. They both have planning issues but neither completely trumps the other. The greatest feature of SD for these purposes is the ability to filter airspace by altitude, which means that a mess of controlled and restricted airspace can fall away to show that a straight line is feasible for the whole journey (eg Friedrichshafen to Biggin Hill at the weekend at FL105.)

EGKB Biggin Hill

People who fail the audiogram can still hold a Class 1 or Instrument Rating with a Class 2 by passing a functional hearing assessment which is undertaken during a medical flight test or simulator assessment. It is extremely rare to fail this functional hearing assessment.

If this is the FHA which you do annually (if you have one bad ear) in the air with an FI (or CRI) then you cannot possibly fail it because a headset is “mono”.

What is new is that this concession appears to be available on the initial medical too, for the IR.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

I would never go back to VFR-only flying.

First of all, the IFR training sharpened my flying skills and my overall airmanship. It gave me more confidence in my ATC communications and strengthened the way I imply myself in it. I talk more voluntarily and better (more aimed to a specific situation) I think. And: I got rid of managing all these airspace restrictions related to military and other. This gives one a more comfortable way of travelling. For instance: make your way through airspaces in Provence or around Istres or Marseille in a VFR flight. I never were 100% sure of in which airspace I’m actually flying. Thankfully ATC was there (to be sure 100%?). Not a perfect way to fly!

I got more involved with weather, learned a lot more (read a lot very interesting features here in this forum) and got out flying confidently and safe with weather I would never have flown in before. There is one indescribable feeling in IFR flying when getting out on top of the clouds in perfect sunshine and blue skies coming from grey weather underneath! I wouldn’t miss that any more.

IFR is a lot of learning and work for less work once airborne (except departing and arriving where the workload is greater).

There may be major shortcomings in IFR as related above. But perhaps I do not fly enough to get involved by clearance delays (it happened only once in my training time, cancelled IFR and picked it up later once out of a congested airspace), for instance. Ice stays a major concern in upper altitudes (or to get there). VFR might be a solution for a trip not too long.

France

One concept not ‘officially’ available this side of the pond is a “pop-up clearance” i.e the ability to go IFR at the last minute usually because of weather.
In order to ensure that I can get in to where I am going, I often file a ‘Z’ flight plane (VFR for most of the journey, with IFR for the procedure at the end). This can then use nearly all the benefits that Timothy mentions.
I say ‘officially’ (that ‘pop-up’ is not available); but on a few occasions I have asked for an approach when I haven’t booked one, and each time they have concurred – sometimes by asking “Are you IR compliant?”.

Rochester, UK, United Kingdom

@Timothy
I tend to route straight through the “mess of controlled and restricted airspace” (except in obvious cases that need to be avoided, like huge international airports) in flight plannning and almost always get cleared through on VFR flight plans. The important thing is to make clear what you want we’ll before you get to the controlled airspace and be flexible. If the controller feels you know what you’re doing, he/she relaxes a little and tries to give you what you want (including in fairly busy environments). Just sound professional and be ready to hold, maneuver, respond quickly.

Tököl LHTL
129 Posts
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