Lv 4
Pat asked in Cars & TransportationAircraft · 1 decade ago

Are most commercial airliners IFR only, since they all mostly wind up in Alpha anyway?

I know landings are visual whenever possible, and Class Alpha is IFR only, but I was just wondering if pilots (or their dispatchers or what have you) make their flight plans all IFR since many flights will spend a great deal of time in Alpha, or if it's not much harder to file VFR-IFR-VFR (unless there's weather, of course). I haven't learned much about IFR flight plans just yet, and I didn't feel like waiting until I start my instrument training.

8 Answers

  • Favorite Answer

    Yes, most commercial airliners fly IFR since the majority of airliners cruise above 18,000 feet. In any IFR flight there are three stages...departure, en route and approach. Airspace from 18,000 to 60,000 feet is designated as class A airspace for the United States and Canada. This Alpha airspace is part of the IFR clearance for all aircraft. In the US, even if the pilot has filed an IFR flight plan, he is still responsible for maintaining a watch for and avoid other air traffic and obstructions. All aircraft must observe separation distances from other aircraft at all times, and this is the most important area of IFR flying, since separation must be maintained whatever the weather or visibility conditions.


    @Ben Dere Dun Dat...Sir..I haven't had the chance to brag about the time when I did a non-precision IFR VOR/DME approach way back in a 757 at Guatemala city. It was horrible! The missed approach procedure is bad as there are mountains and cliffs all around the field. We had to build a DME arc on the FMC. Handflying is done at night while descending at fixes (the LNAV and VNAV cannot track the route quickly) so if u overshoot you're hitting a mountain!

    So wait till I get to be captain, Sir...I'll show your pals at AKA what IFR flying in really crappy WX at minimums can do.. lol

    @Patrick...good luck on your instrument training. It's guaranteed to be one of the most interesting skills you'll ever acquire.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Yes, a Part 121 air carrier can be dispatched for VFR flight.

    121.611 - Dispatch or flight release under VFR. No person may dispatch or release an aircraft for VFR operation unless the ceiling and visibility en route, as indicated by available weather reports or forecasts, or any combination thereof, are and will remain at or above applicable VFR minimums until the aircraft arrives at the airport or airports specified in the dispatch or flight release.

    While most airlines do not ever do this with pax on board I know for a fact (having flown on them a lot) that Alaska Airlines flies some of their short hops in Southeast Alaska when the weather is VFR. I used to ride the jumpseat with them occasionally prior to 9/11 too. It was pretty neat cruising along over the "inside passage" at 5,000 feet or less watching the pilots hand fly several consecutive VFR departures and arrivals in a 737. Get on Google Earth and look at Yakutat - Gustavus - Juneau - Wrangell - Petersburg - Sitka - Ketchikan to see what I'm talking about. It's beautiful country when CAVU, but it's seriously tough IFR flying when it's down to minimums in really crappy weather. The AKA airline guys that fly the Alaskan routes are probably the most competent and skilled airline pilots in the world.

  • Rob G
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago

    Commercial airline flights are always IFR. Airlines will also prohibit their pilots from doing things like taking off VFR, to get out quicker, and picking up their IFR clearance in the air. It's not necessarily because of the time spent in class A. It's so that you are always on a flight plan. That has the advantage of dispatch/passengers being to track your flight, always being in contact with ATC and getting all the benefits that that it entails, etc.

  • 1 decade ago

    Commercial airline flights are essentially always IFR. It's possible to fly passengers for hire under VFR, under certain conditions, but major commercial carriers don't do so with any significant frequency.

    IFR is mandatory in Class A airspace (all airspace above 18,000 feet in the U.S.), so nobody is flying VFR there.

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  • 1 decade ago

    I believe that Part 121 requires the entire flight to be IFR in the US but do not hold me to that I am only like 50% sure of that.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Airliners are under requirement to operate IFR takeoff to landing -

    They could takeoff VFR and get clearance after airborne.

    On arrival, the can request visual if runway in sight.

    But they are remaining IFR -

    Source(s): Retired airline pilot
  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Some do depends on the type of plane and what equipment it has as well, though I have not been inside a real plane

  • Ask Mike Beech. He's the all-time carpet flyer who spends most of his time in Alpha troll airspace.

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