wx4nc asked in Cars & TransportationAircraft · 1 decade ago

IFR and VFR Departures - WTF.?

Okay, so I've been flight simming since FS98 came out, but working with the ATC (since FS2002) is redundant and never tought me much. I'm in quite a bit of a pickle! I'm planning on getting my PPL by the end of 2010 and I want to know as much as possible before I start.

I'm flying on VATSIM (Virtual Air Traffic Simulation Network) now, and for the first time. I've logged a total of 5 hours VFR and ZERO IFR. IFR kind of scares me!

Here's what happens when I go for a VFR flight. I want to know if what I'm doing is right. (This transcript isn't perfect but you get the idea.)

Me: Detroit Metro, N5156J, requesting clearance for VFR departure to the southeast.

Clearance Del_ATC: 5156J, cleared for through Bravo airspace. Fly runway heading and stay at or below 2,500ft, etc etc etc


Me:<Taxi Permission>

GRD_ATC:<Taxi route, handoff, etc>


TWR_ATC:<takeoff clearance>

Me:<readback and takeoff. maintaining VFR>

Then, after arriving at the airport I was flying to, things go in the reverse order (all except for clearance, obviously). VFR flights go flawlessly and I have NO problems conducting communications with ATC and following orders.

Now for IFR... holy hell.

I get clearance from clearance delivery and they always utter a bunch of jibberish I cannot understand. They tell me to do a certain RNAV departure (always code named) and then do this and that and this and that, etc. How the hell am I supposed to know what they are talking about??? I know it's on the airport's charts but I don't have a printer so I can't print them out, and I can barely read them.

I've been flying the PMDG Boeing 747-400f (an EXTREMELY realistic version of the 747) for a month or so and have finally learned how to fly the thing. But I usually program the FMC before I leave the gate (putting in the route legs and everything else) and when they tell me to do a certain departure.... I just freeze. I don't know what the hell they are talking about, let alone how to actually fly the departure route given.

Can anyone give any advice, websites, etc... that can help me learn how to understand IFR departures and reading the departure charts?

Also, when landing under IFR, do they still use the stuff like "Fly the Blue Devil 4 Arrival and......"?

God I'm lost. Help me please!

12 Answers

  • Walter
    Lv 4
    1 decade ago
    Best Answer

    What you may want to do is grab a pen and some paper and write down what ATC are telling you, especially during clearances. Once you have written it down, it'll be a lot easier for you.

    You are correct in programming the FMC before contacting clearance delivery. Usually, like 98% of the time, ATC will clear you of the route you have filed under your flight plan (which should have been entered manually into your FMC routes and legs pages). Sometimes however, you may be given a deviation of your filed route but it shouldn't be nothing too drastic (you do not just walk into the flight deck, you will prepare your flight beforehand, so ATC are not going to change your entire route or large segments of it).

    RNAV departures require charts with RNAV written on the top right corner of the page, which makes sense. They involve flying to and from open areas such as lat/long co-ordinates, instead of flying directly to or from an intersection or VOR station.

    If you do not have a printer, perhaps go down to the local library and use the one there? I imagine it would be a lot easier having the charts in front of you and you may want to buy a book on IFR and aeronautical charts. I recommend the Air Pilot's Manual, which is a series of extremely helpful and nicely written books written and edited by many pilots, such as private and commercial pilots and instructors and examiners.

    In time you will learn but only if you are willing to do so. Good luck with getting your PPL in the future.

    Source(s): Airline pilot
  • In addition to the other answers, here's a widely used technique for transcribing IFR clearances.

    Write the letters






    on a sheet of paper.

    Then, as the controller gives you the clearance, simply enter the information that corresponds with each letter.

    The clearance is always given in the same order and always contains the same information.

    C= Clearance limit. This will usually include the airport destination you filed for. Though, sometimes conflicting traffic may limit your clearance to a given waypoint. You will receive an additional clearance en route.

    R= Route. This will include any SID's. It will also give you the entire route you are expected to fly. Occasionally, you will get lucky and hear those two simple words "as filed". Which means you will fly the exact route you filed for in your IFR flight plan.

    A= Altitude. There will be two altitudes given. The first will be the altitude you will climb to after departure. You remain at this altitude until you are instructed to climb to your en route altitude.

    It usually sounds like "....maintain 5000 feet, expect 10,000 feet ten minutes after departure."

    F= Frequency. This is the frequency of the departure controller, which you will switch to when instructed by the tower. "..departure frequency 120.6"

    T= Transponder. This is simply the discreet 4 digit 'squawk' code you enter into your transponder.

    Any Standard Instrument Departures or Standard Teminal Arrival Routes are included in the US Terminal Procedures package. You can buy the real ones for about $8 from any pilot shop. http://www.sportys.com/shoppilot/charts/tppcharts....

    (If you'd like an expired one from New England (NE-1), I'd be happy to send you one. Send me an email)

    "Also, when landing under IFR, do they still use the stuff like "Fly the Blue Devil 4 Arrival and......"?"

    Yes. When you contact your destination's approach control, you will either receive vectors or a Standard Terminal Arrival Route.(STAR) This is also in the US Terminal Procedures package.

    EDIT: Something you may want to try: When you call for your clearance (EVEN if only on VATSIM) advise the controller that you are a 'student pilot'.

    They should keep the clearance a little more simple and they usually will speak more slowly.

    Source(s): Instrument Rated Pilot
  • T.J.
    Lv 4
    1 decade ago

    It's going to be difficult for you to understand IFR things unless you actually have someone teach them to you. SIDs or standard instrument departure procedures is what the controller is giving you first. This is a procedure to expedite traffic flow out of busy airspace and shorten the time it takes to give a clearance. Rather than giving you a clearance fix by fix, they can give you a SID and that will tell you what route to fly. Some SIDs have multiple points where they end, so the controller may also issue you a transition, i.e. "Cleared to XYZ airport via Cards 7 departure, bradford transition; then as filed" Instead of the "as filed" the controller may give you further routing instructions. A STAR or standard terminal arrival route, is pretty much the same thing in reverse. The controller should give you an altitude to fly for the route. A trick real pilots use to not get SIDs or STARs is to put "No SID/STAR" in the remarks section when filing a flight plan.

    RNAV requires the use of GPS or RNAV equipment. I don't know if the fmc on the sim would have the SID preprogrammed or if you would have to put in each waypoint individually. If you buy terminal procedures (commonly known as approach plates) for the state you are in, it will have the instrument approaches as well as SIDs and STARs for your area. Again, you won't fully understand these things until you have studied for the instrument rating.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    It sounds to me like you are putting the cart before the horse.

    Why not study some IFR in any instrument study guide, rather than flight simming a B747 since this is way past what you will start out learning. You're missing so much that involves standard procedures in a small general aviation airplane and it would be a lot easier to understand if you start with the smaller airplane and a basic knowledge of instrument flight rules, which you do not have. You're trying to jump into the middle of it and you need to start at the beginning. Flight simming skips a lot of real world stuff, like lessons with a CFII!!

    Studying some of the departure and approach plates should also help.

    Source(s): instrument rated pilot - did it without the flight simulator
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  • Kokita
    Lv 4
    4 years ago

    (1) IFR is where the pilot is ultimately responsible for navigation, obstacle clearance and traffic separation using the see-and-avoid concept. The vast majority of commercial traffic (any flight for hire) and all scheduled air carriers operate exclusively under IFR. However, commercial aircraft providing sight seeing flights, aerial photography, or lift services for parachute jumping usually operate under VFR. So the answer is No. (2) VFR flight is not allowed in airspace known as class A, regardless of the meteorological conditions. Class A airspace begins at 18,000 feet msl, and extends to an altitude of 60,000 feet msl. However, CVFR flight is used in locations where aviation authorities have determined that VFR flight should be allowed, but that ATC separation minimal and guidance are necessary. (3) Meteorological conditions that meet the minimum requirements for VFR flight are termed visual meteorological conditions (VMC). If they are not met, the conditions are considered instrument meteorological conditions, and a flight may only operate under IFR. However, as mentioned in point (1) above, all class A flights are IFR regardless of the weather conditions. So that's correct.

  • 1 decade ago

    You can probably teach yourself to fake VFR flight pretty easily in a flight sim, but IFR is another matter altogether. You need competent professional training to fly IFR, or even fake it in a sim. The Cessna 172 isn't nearly as cool as the B-747, but trying to fly an airplane as complex as that AND learn IFR flying at the same time is really really really making things hard for yourself. Even professional pilots don't learn it that way. Try a Cessna 172 first.

    The FAA instrument flying handbook is a great resource. So are the King series of lessons.

    Source(s): pilot about 10+ years, instrument rated (without a computer!)
  • Mark
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago

    When communicating with Ground Control you don't need to be reading back the taxi route. (US AIM 4-3-18 a. 9)

    Before calling clearance Delivery:

    Look through the list of departures, and

    Look at the enroute chart(s) to see the intersections and VORs that might well be on your route. (fltplan.com)

    When enroute the controller might well tell you to fly a terminal arrival. Know what that means. (Until also cleared for an approach or told to "descend" on the arrival it doesn't mean to descend to the altitudes shown for the arrival. (US AIM 5-4-1)

    Do you have the basic aviation training books? "Aeronautical Training Manual," "Instrument Flying Handbook," or "Instrument Procedures Handbook"? [faa.gov (Training Guides)]

  • 1 decade ago

    Download and read the FAA's publications, such as the AIM, the Airplane Flying Handbook, and especially for IFR, the Instrument Flying Handbook and Instrument Procedures Handbook.

    For a good overview of ATC phraseology, see "Say It Again, Please" by Bob Gardner. There are also instructional videos on the FAA site and on YouTube (also from the FAA) that explain ATC interactions on the ground and in the air, although they don't go into much detail.

    VATSIM is a superlative way to learn ATC communication. The phraseology and procedures used on VATSIM are, for most practical purposes, identical to real life, and you will gain a huge amount of time on the radio communication aspect of your real-life training by flying in simulation with VATSIM. Better to make your mistakes on VATSIM than in real life!

    Clearances tend to be long, but they follow a very predictable pattern, including:

    1. Clearance limit, the last point in your route to which you are cleared IFR. These days, this is usually your destination airport: "Cleared to the Los Angeles International Airport …".

    2. Route, which is the route you'll take to your clearance limit. This is usually the same as you filed. Typically it will include a departure procedure and transition, and then "as filed," meaning that the rest of the route is as you filed it: "… via the HOLTZ9 departure, HEC transition, then as filed …".

    3. Altitude restrictions, typically an initial altitude, and also a mention of when to expect clearance to your cruise altitude (or an intermediate altitude): "… climb and maintain seven thousand, expect flight level two eight zero ten minutes after departure …".

    4. Departure frequency, the frequency of departure services after you leave the tower's airspace: "… departure frequency is one two four point five …".

    5. Transponder code, which you need to dial into your transponder: "… squawk two four seven four."

    IFR clearances on VATSIM are as they are in real life. Write them down, and repeat them back to the controller.

    Reading charts is a necessary evil for IFR, so you'll have to learn them. You can find everything you need for IFR in the United States on the Web: charts, procedures, everything.

    You're supposed to enter the departure on the FMC to begin with, and you should file it in your flight plan as well (in the United States). If you aren't doing this, you need to learn how to do it. One again, you'll have to look it up and read a lot. It is done on VATSIM just as it is done in real life.

    Yes, they still say things like "descend via the SEAVU arrival," meaning follow the SEAVU STAR and respect all course and altitude restrictions. Here again, it's done on VATSIM just as it is in real life.

    IFR takes a lot of learning, but you can do most of it without getting anywhere near an aircraft (only the actual handling of the controls in IMC requires an aircraft, or a full-motion simulator). IFR is mostly procedures and more procedures.

    Useful sites:

    http://www.skyvector.com - online Sectional, TAC, IFR charts for the U.S.

    http://www.vatsim.net - online flight simulation with live ATC

    http://www.flightaware.com - real-world IFR flight plans and terminal procedures (check the airport info for the procedure packs)

    Those are the basic sites. There are many others, for weather and so on.

    Be sure you are able to fly the route that you've filed. If you don't know how to fly SIDs and STARs yet, don't file them (ATC may ask you to accept them but you are not obligated to do so, particularly if you are in a small aircraft).

    Fly a small airplane IFR to get the hang of things before flying the big iron. Learn to navigate an IFR flight plan without a FMC.

    Several people answering here clearly do not understand how serious simulation works on desktops these days and dramatically underestimate it, so their dismissals of simulation should be taken with a very large grain of salt.

    Since you will not step into a 747 in your real flight training (at least not initially), you might want to get a payware GA aircraft and fly IFR with that in the sim. Dreamfleet makes several small aircraft (Bonanza, Baron, Dakota) that are to GA what PMDG is to big iron, and if you invest in these you can practice IFR procedures in small aircraft that are a lot closer to what you'll actually fly initially in your training. Be advised that IFR is a little different on smaller aircraft because they don't have FMCs; your routing may be simpler and you'll have to do a lot more things yourself, even with a GPS.

  • 1 decade ago

    If I understand right you are asking this so you will be better off when you start really flying?

    There is one very important difference that you should know, a sim and a real airplane are two very different things. Teaching yourself how to fly on a sim is like learning how to drive by playing need for speed or grand theft auto. You may gain a little bit from it, but you'll pick up bad habits and not really learn the important stuff.

    You'll learn vfr flying first, then after you get get your private license you can start working on instrument stuff. Don't worry about it or concern yourself with it right now.

    With that being said, you need airport charts. If you can't print them out then go to an airport and pick up a set. You can buy a book of them for $5 that covers a few states. See if they have any expired ones, if they do you may be able to get them for free and they will work just fine for what you're doing.

    If you fly like most people I've seen that started on a sim you're probably relying on the autopilot to do everything for you. Its ok to put all the stuff in the fms but if you get a change you have to be willing to roll with the punches. Sometimes (in real life) you'll get a route that is very different from what you filed. Copy it down and fly it. When I was working on my instrument rating I did a cross country where I filed a very specific route that I spent a lot of time planning. When I got my clearance it was totally different, I had to copy it and fly it. For you that may mean manually tuning and identifying different nav aids, this is where having charts is important.

    Stars and dp's are often but not always used. You can be assigned nearly any route. You could take off and be cleared direct, given a dp then direct, given a vector then airways, anything goes.

    Dp's and stars are pretty easy, check out the link below. those are all the departures and arrivals for bjc, you should have every one you have the ability to fly. Look at pikes four. You may get a clearance that sounds something like Cirrus 23AB cleared pikes four departure, Pueblo transition then as filed. Climb and maintain one four thousand feet. Contact departure on 126.1 Squawk 5472.

    You'll fly it by taking off, climbing to 400 feet, go direct to DEN. then the 156 radial off DEN to Adane (defined by the den 156 and the pub 349 radials) then the pub 349 radial. At pub you continue on as filed.

    A star works in much the same way only backwards.

    Go to an airport, start taking lessons and don't worry about the sim stuff.

  • 1 decade ago

    Use this website for actual IFR charts, approach plates, departure and arrival procedures.


    Also here is a link for the FAA's instrument flying handbook.



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