VFR vs IFR question


Hi there, Which is the better mode to fly in? I am new at all these terms Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance…

VFR allows you the freedom to roam about, looking at the scenery without having to explain to ATC why you’re changing altitude and heading all the time, great if the weather is suitable.
IFR means you have generally file a flight plan in advance and pretty much stick to the planned route and crucially you must obey instructions from ATC. The advantage is that even if the weather is poor you’ve still got a good chance of getting to your destination.


It’s totally a matter of taste. If you are someone who likes procedures and protocols and want to fly an airliner at high altitude from A to B, you’re most likely gonna be the IFR type.
If you like to see where you are flying, do some sightseeing, enjoy the freedom to do some aerobatics and of chosing or finding your own route (bushtrip) then you probably will chose VFR.

I do a lot of VFR and IFR but with IFR I tend to,With the A320,do a lot of low level IFR.Anywhere from 3000 to 7000 feet depending on what I want to look at.It’s all up to your personal taste.Try a bit of both I reckon.Cheers

VFR = Visual Flight Rules. That last part is important, Rules. You are not required to file a flight plan, but if you’re flying anything but an aircraft you own it’s nearly always a requirement.

Here’s a good primer on VFR offered by the AOPA.

IFR = Instrument Flight Rules. You need to be rated to fly IFR. It allows you to fly in “IMC” - Instrument Meteorological Conditions - that usually means you’ll be flying into weather at some point during your flight path. It also means you need to be an in instrument rated aircraft, and to be safe, also one that’s rated for “FIKI” - Flight Into Known Icing. None of the basic GA aircraft in Flight Sim are rated for FIKI. If you have the Premium edition and have the B58 Baron, that one can fly into icing conditions.

If you want to practice your interactions with ATC in good weather - called CAVOK (Ceiling And Visibility Okay) - there is an option called Flight Following. ATC will give you a squawk code and hand you off between sectors.

Have fun!



There are real world exceptions, for example where IFR is not possible in a particular aircraft due to broken clouds causing icing on any sensible IFR route at IFR altitudes but VFR will let you happily and safely weave around or under the clouds and get through. You would need to be very careful not to box yourself in though.

Well yes, as a military and then police helicopter pilot flying machines that rarely have any icing clearance I’m pretty used to achieving the aims of the mission without getting into icing conditions.

You could say I’ve spent the last 36 years as one of those exceptions you point to, but I realise that the job I do is a very niche part of the whole aviation scene and I don’t have angry fare paying passengers
complaining to my boss if I decide the weather isn’t suitable for flight.

And there it is… the key to VFR flying. There’s a reason they refer to the individual flying the aircraft as “Pilot In Command.”


In the real world IFR flight requires training and examination in the use of a Flight Plan, and flying purely on instruments.

To fly IFR does not need any visual references outside the cockpit from just after takeoff until the flight minimums on landing.

IFR flight will also typically take place at Flight Levels in Controlled Airspace.

Hence you are only going to fly safely in bad weather if you know procedures and how to use the Instruments and that does not mean eyes stuck solely on the GPS

That depends. Try both !

Technically it is Instrument Flight Rules vs Visual Flight Rules … but that’s not really the difference.

I like VFR, but I also like IFR. VFR is a bit like exploring in a car … in the air, when you’ve got a rough idea where you’re going, you don’t use maps (unless you get lost), plan a route in advance using checkpoints like visible features on the ground, roads, rivers, lakes, towns, anything. IFR is more about “proper jet flying” (not limited to jets), and I always think more like programming a computer than flying in some ways. But in VFR you can use autopilot, especially on long flights across water… which aren’t scenic evn on MSFS.

But try it. The Bush flights are pretty much VFR flights (we have a group CIXVFRCLUB where we do it en masse), there isn’t yet an equivalent tutorial for IFR in MSFS, but there are documents and youtube vids which should give you some sort of idea. Stick with the A320 because the others are still a bit iffy.

If you are a complete beginner VFR is probably easier, because MSFS’s C152/C172 work better and are simpler, and the graphics are ideally suited to visual navigation.

VFR is fun, IFR is like flying with your parents constantly asking if "you’re nearly there yet!’ :joy:


when i fly in a tubeliner, i ask myself that every time

Some VFR pilots tempt fate during bad weather when cloud ceilings are very low and the pilot tries to remain under them without hitting any obstacles or granite. IFR pilots are challenged differently when the destination airport closes due to bad weather. The pilot has to fly to the alternate airport and hopefully it is open and there is enough fuel to reach it.

The biggest problem for VFR pilots is flying into a cloud and losing all visual references. Try hand-flying any aircraft looking only at the instruments and not looking outside. Unless the pilot is trained to fly using only instruments, VFR pilots become disoriented within several minutes and lose control of their aircraft.

This is very true - I was flying (RW) years ago VFR when 2 fronts collided and zipped up everything in front of us in a matter of about 5 min. Suddenly everything disappeared - ground, horizon, everything! Then we were hit with sheets of rain. We made a careful 180 degree turn on instruments and flew out of the storm - our charts showed a rural airport back about 10 miles. We made it there and landed before the storm caught up with us.

In another case we were going to settle in for the night about 130 miles from home and discovered there was a major ice storm headed our way. Rather than get caught there for a couple of days, we filed instrument and flew back home at night in the fog so we could be way ahead of it.

Flying Instrument Flight Rules means just that - flying by those procedures and being licensed to do so. It doesn’t mean you’re at “Flight Levels” in an airliner or corporate aircraft. I used instruments to fly VFR all the time (VORs, NDBs, etc.) Now I’ll use GPS guidance to verify my location but still enjoy looking out the window. It’s pretty hard to fly "dead reckoning over some regions of Illinois and Iowa farmland - everything can look exactly the same. Also, flying IFR doesn’t mean that you’re in clouds or on high airways and can’t enjoy the scenery. :slight_smile:

that’s why I hug the treetops, you gotta smell the leaves and hear the screams of the ground dwellers…

Most pilots that tried using dead reckoning, are now mostly dead :slight_smile:

You need to tell that to the crop dusting guys around here, it is not unusual on a winter morning while waiting for cloud to lift to see an AT802 coming in just above tree height following a road.

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Yea, those guys are good!!

But these days with GPS, not too many rely on dead reckoning any more. I think most VFR pilots go more by landmarks than use dead reckoning. Over plain terrain like you mention, it’s really hard to go ang long distance, specially if you can’t tell which way the wind is blowing.

I surely wouldn’t use dead reckoning out in the desert in the middle of no where or out where you really have no landmarks to go by. I think they still teach it to get your pilot license.

But I guess a few people still use it.

They are good. They also have 1200 HP on tap not just 100 or so and are certified for low level operations.

Scud running like that is totally not a good plan for a 100 hour pilot in the local aero club 172. :smiley:

They probably still teach it because most light aircraft do not have a backup GPS and they can and do fail.

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Pattern work and sight seeing are VFR.

With FSEconomy mostly IFR.

I’m just getting into jets and all that has been IFR.

I also use Pilot2ATC instead of the native ATC.