IFR Flight – What is IMC?

IFR, or Instrument Flight Rules, is flying using the onboard instruments without reference to the ground. The most common example of needing to use instruments is flying through clouds or IMC conditions. IMC, or Instrument Meteorological conditions, is weather  that require the use of instruments, typically cloudy or low visibility.

low visibility

That means pilots using IFR clearances can fly without ever seeing the ground. It would be similar to driving a car down the highway without seeing the lanes or street signs, instead only using the instruments on the dash to navigate and judge speed.

Flying through clouds and low visibility sounds difficult and dangerous. However, it is a normal and safe part of flying. Pilots need IFR training to fly in these conditions.

Can All Pilots Fly IFR?

Though all private pilots receive some training to fly using only the instruments, it requires a separate license to legally fly in the clouds. If you are interested in learning more about IFR training or starting the process of learning to fly, CLICK HERE to get started today. 

Most small-aircraft planes and pilots fly on good weather days by using the ground to navigate. This method of flying is called VFR, or visual flight rules. This method works great on good weather days but limits the ability to fly anytime the weather takes a turn.

You have noticed that airliners fly right through the clouds. All airline pilots and airliners fly into clouds and have powerful flight instruments to help fly in the absolute worst weather imaginable.  Flying in such conditions requires operating under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR).

Pilots can even land only by using the instruments and autopilot. That means they can land without ever seeing the runway. Autoland requires special training and certification for the pilots and the airplane.


IFR Flight

Without the ability to fly in IFR conditions, airplanes would be very limited, especially in remote places like Alaska. Watch FLY8MA Chief Instructor, Jon, fly around challenging conditions in Alaska.

Flying in instrument meteorological conditions requires an instrument rating and an IFR clearance from air traffic control. It is a thrill to fly through the clouds, navigating by flight instruments.

IFR training is hard work, but extremely rewarding. Many pilots consider it an essential skill. There have been accidents when VFR only pilots encountered bad weather and were unprepared to handle the IFR conditions. Some aircraft insurance companies offer large discounts to pilots with a current instrument rating.


If you are interested in becoming a pilot, flying through the clouds in IMC is one of the most exciting experiences.  In addition, it is one of the best things you can to advance your piloting skills and make you a more confident, safer pilot.

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