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VFR into IMC

by John M. White |

While the sky is a lot different to navigate through than land roads, it does not make the sky more or less prone to accidents. For the majority of their flight hours, pilots rely greatly on VFR or “visual flight rules.” This is flying using visuals rather than instruments, although instruments are checked every now and then to ensure that the course the aircraft is flying is true and correct. Visual flight rules also make it possible for the pilot to determine nose-up or nose-down attitude by checking the horizon right ahead. With a fixed point of reference, the pilot can tell if the plane is in a slight dive or rising above the horizon. With IMC, or instrument meteorological conditions, it is very different. The pilot is forced to rely solely on the instrument panels to maintain course, attitude and altitude. Due to it’s difficult nature, IMC flying is attributed to a high percentage of aviation-related accidents. Why is this?

Poor Situational Assessment

Students have shown that, in certain cases, the pilot misjudged the conditions of the weather thinking that it will continue to be clear skies. Thus, they end up heading into IMC predicaments without having proper training. Many pilots fail to recognize the warning signs early on and avoid conditions that force them to fly in these conditions. This could stem from lack of experience or insufficient training in judging weather conditions correctly.


Some pilots also fail to diagnose incoming weather conditions accurately, thus they think that they can successfully navigate through these situations without a problem. This stems from an overconfidence on their abilities. Some cases have shown that accidents caused by instrument flying involves a pilot that already has an instrument rating! It’s important to note, just because you have an instrument rating doesn’t mean you should fly in certain conditions.

Poor Decision Making Due to Outside Pressures

As the pilot, it can be pressing to reach a destination on time especially when there are passengers on board or a deadline to be met. A pilot can find himself head-on to a possible IMC situation when he is pushing himself to meet arrival times for the sake of his passengers or cargo. Thus, they forego the option of diverting to a safer haven choosing instead the shorter route even if it means flying blind for some time. The thing to realize is that flying VFR into IMC isn’t just a danger to student pilot’s it’s also dangerous to seasoned pilots who already hold an instrument rating. When you’re Learning to Fly talk with you instructor about this. Ask to do some extensive “under the hood” training. You’ll be very glad you did. To learn more about Jason and his flight training blog visit him at

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