VFR-Rated Pilot Versus IFR-Rated Pilot



What do the terms “VFR” and “IFR” mean?

The acronyms VFR and IFR stand for different types of FAA pilot certifications. VFR stands for “Visual Flight Rules.” This means that a VFR-rated pilot must follow specific guidelines when flying using visual references. A pilot holding a Private Pilot License (PPL) must fly in VFR conditions. IFR stands for “Instrument Flight Rules” and allows a pilot who is Instrument Rated (IR) to operate an aircraft by relying almost solely on instruments. Once a pilot holds a PPL, the next step is to be Instrument Rated (IR), allowing the pilot to fly IFR. Every aspect of flying is impacted by these ratings, such as flight planning, taking off, navigation, weather tracking, flight following, radar, and landing.



VFR Pilot: Visual Flight Rules

VFR Pilot Information and VFR Flight Requirements

VFR ConditionsWhen you first begin as a pilot, you will be flying under a VFR pilot rating. This means you will fly using visual references – landmarks, highways, bodies of water, etc. Pilots are also on the lookout for other aircraft so they can see and avoid them. VFR flight means you are dependent upon the weather and must actively watch for any sudden changes that could present low visibility or other dangerous situations. VFR flying is for fair weather days only.


The main VFR criteria deal with the plane’s fuel allowances, pilot visibility, general distance from ground, distance from clouds, and avoiding the possibility of flying in inclement weather. VFR weather minimums must be adhered to at all times to avoid potentially dangerous situations. For instance, VFR pilots must be able to see clearly for 3 statute miles, and, in most cases, remain 500 feet below clouds or 1,000 feet above clouds, while maintaining 2,000 feet horizontal distance from clouds. Full FAA guidelines for VFR are available online.


Basic VFR requirements and flight procedures cover:

  • Fuel requirements
  • VFR Flight Plan
  • Basic VFR weather minimums
  • Special VFR weather minimums
  • VFR cruising altitude/flight level
  • Special awareness training



IFR Pilot: Instrument Flight Rules

IFR Pilot Information and IFR Flight Requirements

IFR ConditionsAfter earning your Private Pilot License (PPL) with your VFR rating, you are ready to become Instrument Rated (IR) where you will train to fly in IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) conditions. FAA guidelines for IFR are designed to protect pilots from accidents caused in conditions of poor visibility. IFR pilots rely on Air Traffic Control (ATC) for instructions. They file IFR flight plans and rely on their instruments for navigation. Instrument Rating requirements are covered in specialized IR classes and require candidates to pass an FAA IR exam and check-ride.


More than half of all private pilots go on to become instrument rated. Besides flying in poor weather conditions, IFR flight offers other advantages. The level of skill is increased, and IFR pilots are always “two steps ahead” in the plane, which creates a safer environment. IFR pilots are better able to analyze weather and anticipate what to do next. Navigation is also improved in IFR flight, because ATC is providing specific guidance and can offer slight tweaks to your course to help you avert rough weather.


Basic IFR requirements and flight procedures cover:

  • Fuel requirements
  • IFR Flight Plan and Pre-flight preparation
  • VOR Equipment Check
  • IFR Flight Plan Filed with ATC
  • IFR Take-off and landing (Visibility Limitations)
  • Minimum Altitudes and Distances for IFR operations
  • IFR Flight Levels, Altitudes, and Cruising Speeds
  • Flight Path Clearances
  • IFR Communications and Communication Failures
  • IFR Malfunction Reporting in Controlled Airspace
  • Special Air Space General Operating Procedures
  • Closing Flight Plan after completed flight

Keep in mind that when you are flying under IFR, you are flying by using nothing but your instruments, your ears, and your wits. You will rely on Air Traffic Control (ATC) for communication and instructions. You will rely on your instruments for navigation, weather, and other important information. And, you will rely on your wits by remaining focused and calm in the cockpit as you fly a plane in visibility that may end at your windshield.

IFR courses involve specialized training, sometimes in a simulator and sometimes ‘under the hood’ in the aircraft alongside a Certified Flight Instrument Instructor. Your training will culminate with a written exam and check-ride.

About our Accredited Flight School:

Epic Flight Academy is an FAA-accredited international flight training school that has been training pilots from all across the globe since 1999 and preparing to student to fly for all airlines and Civil Aviation Authorities. Our pilot school offers flight training for private pilot, instrument ratings, commercial pilot, multi-engine pilot, certified flight instructor, and ATP ratings. We train in new generation Cessna 172S aircraft with glass cockpits and Piper aircraft. We are proud of our stellar safety record.

Are you interested in becoming a pilot or advancing to an instrument rated pilot?

Please contact our Admissions Department for more information on how to become a pilot!