VFR, or visual flight rules, is a method and set of rules for flying aircraft by reference to the ground. The other method to fly airplanes is by IFR, or instrument flight rules.
VFR flight uses ground references like roads, lakes, terrain, and other noticeable landmarks from the air to navigate. To fly VFR, pilots must maintain VMC, or visual meteorological conditions.
Visual flight rules flying is only allowed when the weather is good enough for pilots to clearly see where they are going. All of these rules and regulations are taught to every new private pilot.
When Do Pilots use Visual Flight Rules?
Flying in VFR requires certain visibility requirements and clearance away from the clouds. This is to keep airplanes from colliding. If a pilot wants to fly in the clouds or low visibility, they will need an IFR clearance and be licensed and trained and in an airplane equipped for IFR flight.
IFR flying requires extra training and is restricted by air traffic control. There are no restrictions to VFR flying as long as the weather is suitable. VFR flights can save time by allowing for direct routing.
Private pilots first learn to fly using VFR. The next step for private pilots is to start training for their instrument rating.
Some commercial planes conduct their flying VFR. On short flights this can save them time and money by getting direct routing and flying any altitude they would like.
VFR flying allows for some of the most impressive views any human can see. It is similar to how birds fly around. There is complete freedom and truly showcases the sights of earth.
FLY8MA instructor Jon shows the beauty of VFR flying by flying around Alaska.
In the video, you see how he references the mountains and glaciers to fly from airport to airport. He uses the rivers to check his course against a map in the plane. VFR flying requires more than just spotting landmarks on the ground though. Pilots are required to pass a written test, an oral exam, and a flight test to prove they can safely operate an airplane in VFR conditions.
If you are interested in becoming a pilot, you will first learn how to fly with visual flight rules. You will learn to navigate and fly long distances using the ground and a VFR sectional chart.